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Farron calls on coalition Government to overhaul Rural Payments Agency

July 20, 2010 12:00 AM

News that Defra's failure to implement the Single Farm Payment properly in 2005 has cost the UK taxpayer £161 million has been described by South Lakeland MP, Tim Farron, as "damning evidence" for a drastic overhaul of the Rural Payments Agency.

The European Commission adopted a proposal on Friday (July 16) which confirmed the UK must return €189 million (£161 million) of 'unduly spent' single payment money back into EU coffers.

Defra today announced the findings of an independent Review of RPA, completed by David Lane working with Deloitte, PWC and Gartner. The Review was commissioned by Defra in September 2009 and concluded that there are significant opportunities to provide a better quality of customer service and deliver efficiencies through improvements in the operational processes, as well as highlighting the lack of appropriate governance and oversight from within RPA's leadership and Defra.

Mr Farron has called on Defra to simplify the RPA by introducing a minimum payment figure of £300, which would help reduce the cost of processing claims and by bringing an end to costly and unnecessary re-mapping of field boundaries .

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"The environmental benefits provided by farmers in maintaining the countryside deserve a continued system of support. But the entire process was thrown into disrepute by the previous Labour government, whose incompetent management of the Rural Payments Agency cost farmers and taxpayers alike.

"Sadly the findings of the report commissioned by the last Government only tell us what we already knew, which was that data held by the RPA has been riddled with errors and efforts to recover overpayments have been slow, disorganised and haphazard.

"Now that the report has made its recommendations, it's essential that the coalition Government puts them into practice and provides the real leadership which is required to turn the RPA around.

"They should begin by introducing a minimum payment figure to stop non-farmers clogging up the system as well bringing about an end to the re-mapping fiasco which has left so many farmers out of pocket. "