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Farmers in England still owed £140m in BPS payments

The RPA is still struggling to complete full 2015 BPS payments to farmers as the close of the payment window draws nearer. It still owes farmers in England £140m, including underpayments to thousands of farmers.
Millions of pounds are still owed to farmers in England
Millions of pounds are still owed to farmers in England

Farmers in England are still owed up to £140 million in 2015 Basic Payments, with just weeks to go until the end of the payment window.

 

A total of 79,505 2015 BPS claims have now been completed, representing 91 per cent of the total claimant population.

 

This represents 78,638 payments plus another 867 that have been cleared but either resulted in no payment being due or no payment being currently possible, for example due to probate.

 

Most of the remaining claimants received UK Treasury-funded bridging payments at the end of April, representing approximately half of their full payment.

 

The RPA, which for a number of months has not been publishing details of the 2015 BPS fund, revealed £1.29 billion has now been paid out from a maximum estimated fund value of £1.43bn.

 

This leaves about £140m still owed to claimants in England in a variety of categories.

 

According to the NFU, this includes millions of pounds thousands of farmers who have supposedly received full payments but have been underpaid, as well as the balance on bridging payments.

 

NFU senior BPS adviser Richard Wordsworth said this was a ‘significant’ amount still owed.

 

Cash flow

 

He said: "The key is how long will the industry have to wait for top ups to bridging payments and correction to what RPA consider is full and correct payments.

 

"Farmers’ cash flows are still under pressure at a time of the year when costs exceed income."

 

NFU vice president Guy Smith said the £140m still owed will include tops ups to bridging payments, which the estimates to be worth about £60 million. "But that still leaves a ’missing’ £70-80m," he added.

 

Mr Smith said the continuing failure of the RPA to deliver full payments - it had expected to have virtually completed the process by the end of March - raised further questions about how well the RPA’s IT was functioning, particularly for commons and inspections claims.

 

An RPA spokesman said: "We continue to process and pay all remaining BPS 2015 payments.

 

"We have always said that with commons and some inspections cases it has taken longer to collect and validate all the information needed to make a payment that does not risk disallowance.

 

"Our focus remains on making compliant payments."

 

 

 


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Who is still owed BPS money?  

Mr Wordsworth has summarised who is still owed BPS money in England and said the NFU was continuing to chase RPA on behalf of members with payment concerns.

 

  • Nil Claim Values - Where the RPA consider there is no payment due, because, for example the claim is ineligible or below the 5 entitlement threshold. However, some are actually due a payment. On April 28, RPA contacted over 1,000 farmers to tell the they were not due a payment and to give them the opportunity to supply more information to show they should be paid. A number have contacted the RPA to contest the decision. Many cases involve common land, including where commons element has not been included but the non-common land is below the 5ha threshold. The New Forest commoners have been particularly hard hit by this.
  • Non English based Cross Border claimants – Where the RPA do not make the final full payment, RPA are not paying these farmers any monies and it is up to Scotland and Wales to sort out any advances in payments. In Wales no part payments have been made to this group to date.
  • English based Cross Border claimants – Where the RPA do make the final full payment, but are waiting for information from Scotland or Wales to sort out the full payment. This group will have had a bridging payment (as they are an English claim), but it based on the English part of the 2015 claim.
  • Hardship cases – Where the RPA have issued such payment for the desperate situations caused by the delay in full payments, many recipient’s situations have not improved and so are still desperately awaiting their top up payment. The initial hardship payments were paid from December 2015 through to early April. These cases are being prioritised, but could have to wait until June for the rest of the monies.
  • Significantly less than 50 per cent bridging payments – We have seen a number of cases where bridging payments issued towards the end of April have not all been in the region of 50 per cent of the total value the farmer has been expecting. This is due to claim data not being correct or recognised or farmer error on the claim. NFU is lobbying RPA to sort out these issues before the balance payment is made.

 

The key point to draw from the above categories is that the RPA can rectify the claim issues now and pay the correct monies within weeks, Mr Wordsworth said.

 

Below are other groups where payments are due, but timescales are less certain at this time.

  • Full, but wrong payments – Many farmers have received what the RPA believe to be a full payment, but the farmer knows they are due additional payments. These correction payments will not be made until the summer. This category will have had or shortly receive a Claim Statement for BPS 2015, making their 2016 application difficult to make with any certainty.
  • Those awaiting a payment and RPA cannot pay – Probate cases, where no payment is due to other debt within CAP claims.

BPS 2016 applications

  • The RPA received over 85,500 claims by the May 16 deadline for applications without penalty - including 69,100 online and more than 16,400 on paper.
  • Claims submitted up to midnight, June 10, after the 16 May deadline will incur a 1 per cent penalty for each working day they are late.
  • Farmers can amend their application up to May 31 without being penalised.
  • Farmers looking to apply for new entitlements from the national reserve will lose 3 per cent for every working day for applications made after May 16.
  • Natural England has received 97 per cent of Environmental Stewardship claims so far and over 93 per cent of Countryside Stewardship claims.

 

RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said: “I am pleased that over 85,500 applications were received ahead of the 16 May deadline with such a high proportion – 3 out of 4 claims - submitted online, including a number who switched from paper to online.

 

“The Rural Payments Service worked well, and continues to do so to enable farmers to make their applications on time and to make certain changes without penalty until May 31.

 

“I would urge anyone yet to make their application for 2016 to do so as soon as possible before 10 June so they don’t miss out.”

 

 

RPA is encouraging farmers who may have an outstanding query, or are waiting for the balance of their 2015 payment, to still apply as soon as they can – using the latest information they have available – to avoid incurring penalties

.

Farmers yet to apply can continue get assistance at five online support centres open across England, via the Rural Services Helpline and advice and guidance available on GOV.UK.

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