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RPA 'Not Fit For Purpose' - Farron

April 5, 2016 2:29 PM

Meeting with local farmersThe Rural Payments Agency is "shambolic" and "not fit for purpose", according to South Lakeland MP Tim Farron. His criticism comes following months of delays and problems with farm payments, as local farmers face mounting financial pressure.

According to the FarmingUK website, between 17-18% farmers are yet to receive their 2015 Basic Payment Scheme payments. This is the equivalent of over 14,000 farmers. This comes despite RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw telling MPs that between 92-95% of farmers would be paid by the end of March. In 2014, 97% of farmers had received their payments by the end of December.

Tim met last week with a group of local dairy farmers, as well as representatives from the NFU, who set out the problems they faced with the RPA. Tim has also received huge amounts of casework from local farmers exasperated by the non-payment of their grants and the poor service offered by the RPA.

In a scathing letter to the DEFRA Minister, Tim has described the agency as "shambolic" and said that it has "serious questions to answer".

Tim said: "Farmers face real difficulty at the moment, and the incompetence of the RPA is threatening the viability of some farms. An unacceptable number of farmers have still not received their payments. It is thought that as few as 10% of commons payments have been made in Cumbria. Farmers had expected this money as early as December so in tough times these delays have been hugely disruptive.

"Farmers are now being told to make their 2016 BPS applications online, but when they have yet to receive their 2015 entitlement statements this is not possible. There are widespread reports of problems with the RPA website, and farmers are having to wait up to an hour to get through on the helpline.

"The whole scheme has been run shambolically. Mark Grimshaw has serious questions to answer about the RPA's performance this year. Drastic improvements must be made so that this situation is not repeated next year."