TWO weeks after The Yorkshire Post first lifted the lid on the latest mismanagement at the beleaguered Rural Payments Agency, concerns about the latest payment of farm subsidies have now been exposed by the National Audit Office and now Caroline Flint, a prominent member of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, intends to ask challenging questions next week.
This is important on three counts. First this is public money – and the Parliamentary select committees still set an exemplary example when it comes to holding officialdom to account. Second, farmers are not just custodians of our land – they’re food producers at a time when Britain can, and should, be more self-sufficient. Third, it will fall to the RPA, an organisation rarely ‘fit for purpose’ over the past decade, to devise – and implement – a new system of subsidies when Britain leaves the EU.
That it is so dysfunctional that a new online system of payment had to be ditched in favour of the paper-based model that it replaced after £200m of payments were delayed by blunders does not bode well for the future.
Questions have to be asked. And, if the answers are unsatisfactory and the next tranche of performance targets missed, the top Ministers and civil servants responsible will be expected by farmers to resign – and with very good reason.