Payment appeals body to remain intact

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The body which makes recommendations to MPs on appeals against the Rural Payments Agency over pay claims is to continue to operate after Farming Minister Jim Paice spared it from the axe.

The RPA’s Independent Agricultural Appeals Panels will remain in place after a review found they were “a valued service for the farming industry”.

As part of the wider Government programme to overhaul public bodies, Defra began a review of it in December and following an informal consultation with industry, it found that farmers liked having their appeals heard by panel members with practical experience of agriculture and considered them the most effective way of providing impartial advice to ministers.

Mr Paice, also chair of the RPA Oversight Board, said: “This Government is doing all it can to free up farming from unnecessary bureaucracy, but it’s really important we keep the Government services that farmers tell us they value.

“Farmers clearly appreciate having their payment appeals heard by independent panel members who understand the issues they face.

“That’s why we’ll be keeping the appeals panels running, while making some changes to the way they operate to ensure they provide the best possible customer service and value for money.”

As part of a five-year plan, announced earlier this year and designed to create a more efficient and effective Rural Payments Agency, the RPA is already working on improvements to the way it interacts with its customers including an overhaul of the correspondence management system and development of better processes and supporting IT for complaints and appeals.

The RPA and Defra will now work on addressing the recommendations in the report, a spokesman said.