Partial payments ruled out for legions of farmers left waiting

Pic: James Hardisty
Pic: James Hardisty
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PLEAS for partial payments to be made to thousands of farmers who have been told they will not receive lifeblood subsidy money until February at the earliest, has been rejected by the Rural Payments Agency.

More than 15,000 people have been told they will not be paid under the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme until after the end of January, prompting the National Farmers’ Union to call for a chunk of those farmers’ claims to be paid in the meantime.

We still believe that part payments should be paid for those people who know their claim will be delayed and that’s the message we are continuing to push strongly with the RPA at every opportunity.

A spokesperson for the National Farmers’ Union

But the RPA has refused to oblige, citing costly problems when partial payments were made in the past.

A spokesman for the agency told The Yorkshire Post: “The RPA will not repeat the mistakes of the past by making partial payments, as our focus remains on making full payments.”

Part payments made under the BPS’s predecessor, the Single Payment Scheme after it was introduced in 2005, caused full pay-outs to be delayed. This contributed to the £640 million-plus in EU-imposed fines racked up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since then.

Senior NFU officials held talks with RPA chiefs yesterday. Afterwards, a spokesperson for the union said the NFU would continue pressing the RPA to reconsider its stance, saying the intense financial pressure plaguing farmers after a year of depressed commodity prices - followed by flood damage for many - meant part payments for those facing an extended wait for their claims would allow them makes plans with their banks.

The spokesperson said: “We still believe that part payments should be paid for those people who know their claim will be delayed and that’s the message we are continuing to push strongly with the RPA at every opportunity.

“The RPA line has consistently been that they won’t consider part payments, if that remains the case then we at least need much greater clarity on when those delayed payments will be made, so that those farmers can start to plan.

“There is no doubt the impact this is having on people’s cash flows and dealing with that involves working with your bank - that requires some planning and certainty on when they are going to get paid.”

The RPA has come in for extra scrutiny since it extended the BPS application deadline last year. The extension compensated for delays caused by the failure of the agency’s online-only claims approach. An online land mapping function proved unfit for purpose and was abandoned.

As a result, the RPA reverted to paper-assisted applications and drafted in extra staff to get through the paperwork.

At the time, the agency’s chief executive Mark Grimshaw insisted that there was no need to plan for part payments, which he said could land Defra with huge EU fines.

The payment window opened at the start of December and the agency promised then that the “majority” of payments would be made by the end of the month, but its results - almost 51 per cent of claims paid - were criticised for achieving the “bare minimum” by the NFU.

It prompted fresh calls for partial payments, with thousands of farmers then being informed by letter that their payments will not reach their bank accounts until February at the very earliest.