Pictured - NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts: “I am pleased to see that the Efra Committee has taken the evidence submitted by the NFU into account."
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee published its latest report into the performance of the RPA on 15 May.
The Committee’s key recommendations included:
- The RPA should set more stretching targets to encourage improved performance for the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). The Agency should aim to make 98% of payments by the end of March each year. The RPA must also thoroughly investigate any complaints of payment inaccuracies and rectify these as quickly as possible.
- Farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to spend time and effort correcting mapping errors which are not their fault. All mapping queries must be resolved as quickly as possible to ensure these do not affect the 2018 BPS payments. The RPA should also develop a system enabling farmers to make direct changes to the online mapping register.
- We welcome the appointment of a new Director to oversee and improve customer service, and urge the RPA to publish detailed customer satisfaction statistics to track progress and accountability.
- We call on the RPA to set out a clear strategy detailing how it will improve communications and complaints handling. This should involve changes to the helpline system so that a single point of contact is available. This would provide farmers with some much needed continuity in the process.
- The RPA should publish an ambitious set of key performance indicators for delivering the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes. These should include targets for increased uptake, processing times, and customer satisfaction ratings. Defra must ensure that the RPA has sufficient resources and expertise to carry out these operations as effectively as possible.
- It is crucial that Defra fully involves the RPA in Brexit transition discussions to ensure that operational practicalities are properly reflected in policy development. Defra must be clear about the RPA’s capacity to deliver, and ensure that preparations for providing timely subsidy payments post-Brexit are made a priority during the agricultural transition period.
- The RPA’s history of failing to deliver workable payment systems does not fill us with confidence that it has either the capacity or expertise to deliver a seamless Brexit transition.
NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “I am pleased to see that the Efra Committee has taken the evidence submitted by the NFU into account. In the past few years we have seen the RPA set low and convenient targets, make numerous mapping errors and inaccurate payments, and fail to deal with complaints and communicate with claimants effectively. It is therefore encouraging that the Efra Committee report highlights these as areas to improve.
“The NFU also welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that Defra fully involves the RPA in discussions about the transition from the current system of support post-Brexit. It is vital that, no matter what future support system is established, those implementing and using the new process are at the heart of its development.
“In addition to the recommendations made by the Committee in the report, the NFU believes there should be even more focus on ensuring the RPA has the necessary resources available to implement changes and improve its current performance.”