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Farron welcomes Defra decision to take immediate action on their troubled online payments system

March 20, 2015 2:01 PM

TF ruralTim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and Chair of the Hill Farming APPG, has welcomed this morning's announcement that DEFRA will be re-launching their Basic Payment Scheme claim system, with the reintroduction of paper forms.

The Governments new £154m website went live last year and for the first time ever, the application process was online only. This was a massive change from the system local farmers have long come to expect and performance issues have been rife. Problems have been made worse by a backdrop of significant broadband issues in Upland areas.

This had the knock on effect of increased workload on agents and risked higher bills for advice and applications due to the new and more complex verification and registration process. This comes during the busiest time of the year for farmers, and at a time when their incomes are under huge pressure.

Tim wrote to the Minister for Farming, George Eustice, earlier this year to call on him to increase support for BPS applications this year. He also called on him to consider introducing a grace period so that farmers unable to use the problematic online system due to IT failures or a lack of knowledge of the new system would not be penalised if they missed the 15th May deadline.

From 23rd March, two forms will now be available to download from the RPA's website. These are:

  • RLE1, which allows claimants to transfer land and entitlements and make changes to their land;
  • BP5, the BPS claim form.

The European Commission has now extended the deadline for applications by a month, to the 15th June.

Commenting, Tim said: "I'm glad DEFRA have listened to calls from myself and hundreds of other farmers and farming organisations. It's all well and good bringing in a new application system but you have to make sure that it's a computer system which works, is combined with support for unfamiliar users, and is accessible to those in rural areas with poor internet speeds and often no access to a computer at home. That didn't happen this time around.

"That said, concerns have been raised with the Department for months now, and I have to question why they had not moved to 'Plan B' long before we got to this point. I'd like to pay tribute to the NFU nationally and on a local level in my constituency, who have been steadfast in raising these concerns and pushing the Government to take action for farmers.

"I'm glad to see the deadline has been extended and I hope this eases some of the worry and burden on those who have had serious concerns about their ability to get their claim in on time this year through no fault of their own.

"Next year I'd like to see us learn from these mistakes and have the new (and hopefully improved) online system launched in tandem with existing paper forms. Farmers deserve ease and choice in making these applications."