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RPA Chief Sacked - So What Defra?
17/03/06

The Tenant Farmers Association has told Defra Ministers that it has until Wednesday 22 March of next week to come up with a plan for resolving the problems with making Single Farm Payments following their decision to sack the RPA’s Chief Executive Johnston McNeill.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, who spoke to Lord Bach this morning, said “I underlined to the Minister that Defra is culpable for the mess we are in and that Ministers should share the responsibility with Johnston McNeill.  Changing the Chief Executive alone will not make a jot of difference to the huge problems that exist.  I made it clear that tenants were suffering great hardship and that if payments were not issued soon we faced meltdown”.

The new acting RPA Chief Executive, Mark Addison, has been told by Defra Ministers to report to them by Tuesday evening on what can be done to resolve matters.

“I have spoken to Mark and told him that while the TFA will do all it can to assist him he must not delay in putting measures in place to turn things around.  We want an announcement from Defra Ministers on the way ahead by Wednesday morning.  Ministers may have had their “scalp” in removing Johnston McNeill but they should not believe that this will be sufficient to placate the angry farming community.  If we do not have a clear statement from Ministers on the way ahead, then the Defra Ministers must take personal responsibility” said Mr Dunn.

The TFA has already suggested, among other things, that the RPA should temporarily shut down its call centre and use the staff resource freed-up to get payments out.  Applicants should be told to contact their representative organisations for help and advice in the interim.  Also, the RPA should focus on the 80,000 returning customers with historical allocations and leave the 40,000 new applicants to be processed later on.  It is in the first category where pain and distress is being caused by the late payments. 

“The RPA has told us that its 40,000 new applicants account for less than 1% of the total payment pot in year one and by the end of the transition will only account for less than 10% of the pot.  This is a direct result of Defra allowing applications from lifestyle landowners with pony-paddocks and has significantly increased the RPA’s workload to the detriment of the farming community.  Defra should bear the responsibility for this” said Mr Dunn.

“Defra has also announced a Review of the RPA.   It is interesting that it is to be led by Defra’s David Hunter who when challenged early on by the TFA about the RPA’s inability to deliver on Defra’s preferred system for implementing the SPS said “The RPA will do what the RPA is told to do”.  This is despite the RPA’s own public reservations being expressed.  I would argue that Mr Hunter will not come to this review with an open mind.  We are also concerned that the review is to start in April.  Given the huge task facing the RPA over payments, it seems ridiculous to start a review much before the summer.  The TFA does not want the review to take resources away from making payments” said Mr Dunn.

“It is also convenient that Defra announces this review at this time.  It has clearly been designed to take the heat off Ministers” said Mr Dunn.

link SPS Shambles needs sorting out now
link Full CAP payments to farmers will begin in February
link Single Farm Payment Relief

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Tenant Farmers Association
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