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Farming Leaders Express Anger And Dismay After Latest Single Payment Meeting
30/03/06

straw field

Leaders of the three main farming organisations expressed anger and dismay after a further meeting with food and farming minister Lord Bach and head of the RPA Mark Addison today (Wednesday 29 March) on progress with the 2005 Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

At the meeting the NFU, CLA and TFA were given no timetable for the delivery of the single payment to farmers and no guarantees that the process would be competed in a reasonable timescale. Although there were sure signs of improvements the three organisations remain deeply concerned at the lack of significant progress and the continued absence of quality information or any timetable. The RPA has taken a number of decisions in the last week, which have helped, but there is still no confidence the payment process will be completed in any reasonable timescale.

The three organisations insisted on an answer to the question as to whether the computerised mapping system will ever work properly. The RPA promised to give an answer, and a technical briefing, in one week. The RPA and DEFRA said that a decision had been taken to prioritise the middle range of historical claimants, but refused to be drawn on an exact definition of this band.

The three organisations insisted that there must be a fully worked up contingency plan to pay 80% partial payments if their worst fears are confirmed.”

TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “The lack of statistical information on how many new applications have been validated is appalling. We were told on Monday that we would be fully briefed with these figures today and we expressed our dissatisfaction to the Minister and RPA Chief Executive that no figures were tabled. We can only assume that little or progress has been made. If there is not a significant improvement in performance by the time of next weeks meeting the TFA will be asking for immediate partial payments based on 80 per cent of the historical value of entitlements”.

The TFA is aware that DEFRA Secretary of State Margaret Beckett has been attempting to distance herself and her Department from any blame for the current problems. However the following list of her decisions indicates that Mrs Beckett is firmly in the frame.

  1. Deciding on the most complicated system for implementing the Single Payment Scheme against the advice of DEFRA officials, RPA staff and the wider agricultural industry.
  2. Ignoring early warnings from the RPA about the problems caused by delays in making policy decisions and the risks they faced in the validation process.
  3. Pushing for early implementation of the SPS during a comprehensive and complicated change programme in the RPA involving office closures and many staff redundancies.
  4. Opening up the SPS to “non farmers” leading to an extra 40,000 “pony paddock” applicants who all needed mapping work even though they account for only 1 per cent of the payment pot. Some of these new applicants will be paid less than £1 in total.
  5. Launching new environmental schemes in the midst of SPS requiring major RPA mapping work.

“When this debacle is over we want a full Inquiry into what went wrong” said Mr Dunn.

link CLA and TFA Statement on Single Payments
link RPA Chief Sacked - So What Defra?
link SPS Shambles needs sorting out now

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