The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has said correction of full payments is nearing completion for last year’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), but the NFU is demanding interest on monies issued after June 30 as compensation for the hardship many farmers have suffered in the meantime.
At NFU council this week, union vice-president Guy Smith slammed the RPA’s performance for 2015 payments, saying most beneficiaries were paid by the end of June but thousands did not get the right amount. Awarding interest on these late payments would be ‘natural justice’, he added.
The criticism came as the RPA published its payments targets for 2016 – to make 90 per cent of payments by the end of December and 93 per cent by the end of March.
Mr Smith said: “My first reaction to this is to note the reiteration of the promise 90 per cent of claimants will paid by the end of the year, which is reassuring, and the NFU will continue to hold not just the RPA, but more importantly Defra, to this promise.
“However, I note to my horror this document also says only 93 per cent will be paid by March 31. In my book, this is unacceptably bad service for thousands of claimants and we will be looking for an early bridging payment for those people.”
Mr Smith also raised concerns about a lack of transparency from the RPA, demanding claims statements with detailed breakdowns were sent to farmers so they can have confidence they have been paid the right amount and also be in a position to challenge decisions.
Questions remain about whether the RPA has enough resources to deal with its workload, despite the fact more than 80 per cent of claims for 2016 were submitted online and there were fewer land and entitlements changes to process.
In Scotland, Holyrood Ministers had promised to pay ‘most’ claims by October 15.
Giving evidence to Scottish Parliament’s audit committee on September 29, a Government official said: “We should start paying the inspection cases which are affected by the private contract clauses next week and we would expect to start paying the cross-border cases from the end of next week or the beginning of the week after.”
But payments made under Scotland’s livestock headage schemes, Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme and Agri-Environment Scheme are not subject to the deadline.
NFU Scotland estimated more than £20 million remains outstanding from these schemes.
NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said: “The strain on those businesses who have only received some, and in some cases none, of the CAP funds they were due for 2015 has been enormous.
“We have to get a line drawn under this sorry debacle. All outstanding claimants need to be paid by October 15.”
Callum Kerr, the Scottish National Party’s spokesman on environment, food and rural affairs in Westminster, has also raised concerns with Farming Minister George Eustice about the lack of movement on revising the current distribution of convergence funding from the EU.
He said: “Unless progress is made on a fairer distribution of funds, Scotland will have the EU’s lowest Pillar One payment rate per hectare by 2019.”