Call for Secretary of State to take urgent action on BPS

liz truss at nfu15 nfu conference_27073

The NFU and CLA have written to Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss asking her to take an urgent, public and proactive role in responding to criticisms of the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme and the consequences for 2016.

With financial hardship cases mounting, anxiety rising among BPS claimants, farmers expressing growing concerns about the 2016 scheme and the demands on voluntary organisations creating considerable difficulties for the third sector, we want to know that Defra have put sufficient resources and plans in place to manage these problems effectively.

We’ve asked the Secretary of State for urgent assurances in the following four key areas:

  • When will the 2015 payments round be completed and when can those receiving a 50% bridging payment expect to be paid in full?
  • Will the RPA have sufficient staff resource to support and resolve post-payment adjustments before the end of August and will such cases receive interest on outstanding payments?
  • What safeguards will Defra give to 2016 BPS applicants that they will not be penalised for RPA’s maladministration, especially given unexplained changes to 2015 application data and payments in the coming months on issues created since the delivery of the BPS in spring 2015?
  • Will RPA’s system allow applicants to make timely applications before the window closes on 16 May?

NFU Vice-President Guy Smith, who is still to receive his own BPS payment, said: “We need the Secretary of State to now show firm leadership on this issue and give some much needed guarantees to our members.

“Last week we received the announcement that the RPA would be making 50% bridging payments to those yet to receive full payments, but ministers should not be surprised that this latest decision by the RPA has created further distrust rather than assurance amongst farmers.”

CLA President Ross Murray said: “Throughout the last year, we have been focused on providing practical assistance to the RPA in managing the basic payment scheme and ensuring the right information is provided to farmers about their payment. We want to continue doing so but this is only possible if the RPA is absolutely clear about the problems that they are experiencing. In due course we will need a full understanding of what has gone wrong but for now we must all pull together to help those in most need.”

Non-payment is not the only concern. Ther NFU and CLA have also heard from significant number of farmers who believe they have not been paid what they expected to receive.

Three quarters of NFU Council said they doubted the accuracy of their 2015 payments and it is also the main query being dealt with by CLA advisers in the past six weeks. This suspicion is causing significant distress for those who have examined their 2016 pre-populated forms to find their data submitted in 2015 applications altered and added too without explanation.

Mr Smith said last week: “When will the remaining thousands of farmers be paid the full amount and why wasn’t this part payment made before?

“More widely we still want to know what the problem is with getting payments out and why the RPA failed to meet promises of payment made as recently as March. Our worry is that this is some sort of intrinsic IT problem that the RPA is struggling to fix. If this is the case it may come back to haunt us in the 2016 application year.”

The NFU and CLA have jointly said in the letter that both our organisations have experienced a dramatic increase in contact from concerned farmers over BPS, with NFU call centre calls doubling week on week during April so far.

guy smith with computer and papers, bps_27731

Last edited on: 26:04:2016

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  • Posted by: David W WatsonPosted on: 27/04/2016 19:13:04

    Comment: The whole BPS has been a farce since the very beginning, why was a system that worked i.e. SPS changed.
    it is obvious that the RPA staffing is not up to the required numbers. The problems we have seen with the 2015 BPS will be even worse for this year. The Leadership at DEFRA leaves a lot to be desired the needs to be a Government enquiry into the whole fiaco and some heads should roll.
  • Posted by: Peter GrayPosted on: 28/04/2016 07:28:39

    Comment: When I expect to get an answer to a telephone calls- yes your number 14 in call waiting -these phone calls cost a fortune holding on and then when you get through no one can answer your question then its too late to claim as you have missed the deadline.
  • Posted by: Peter SmithPosted on: 28/04/2016 09:18:04

    Comment: We have been one of the lucky group of farmers in that we were paid in late February and my heart goes out to those yet to be paid anything. Part of everyone's frustration is that there has been no explanation for the reasons of the delay. But having just filled in our 2016 BPS application, I think I can offer a part explanation. On the "old" system we were required to supply hectares to two decimal places. On 2016 applications pre populated areas are to FOUR decimal places i.e. down to an accuracy of one square metre..If this level of trivial detail has been replicated across the whole system, it is no wonder that the payments have been delayed.
    The online 2016 application is not without its problems either. The paper system took me less than an hour to complete last year. The online application took me 5 hours. Often the screen would freeze, Many times an error message appeared requiring going back two or three stages in order to get beyond the "error". Although our application has been submitted, I am not at all confident that it has.When I last heard from RPA
    there were only about a quarter of applications completed on line with only 3 weeks to go. Will the system cope with a last minute rush - not confident of that either.
  • Posted by: Philip MeadleyPosted on: 28/04/2016 10:11:53

    Comment: We should not allow incompatance to be rewarded, it sets a bad example to the rest of the civil service.

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