A problem-busting plan to speed up farm subsidy claims across England will be in place as soon as this summer, it has emerged.
The three-year strategy will aim to ease bottlenecks and speed up delivery by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). It will be devised following consultation with industry leaders to ensure farmers’ needs are taken into account.
Pledging to turn his agency into a professional, customer-focused organisation, chief executive Mark Grimshaw said he had been struck by the conscientious ethos of RPA staff since taking up his post three months ago.
In an exclusive interview with Farmers Weekly, Mr Grimshaw said: “There won’t be any sugar-coating of tough issues, and certainly no room for poor performance. I’ll ensure that everyone at the RPA is equipped to perform to their highest ability.”
Farmers and agency officials had a common goal: to ensure payments were delivered on time, suggested Mr Grimshaw. “When we get it right first time, the result is timely, accurate payments and satisfied customers all round.”
There would always be some claims that took longer to process than others, such as those chosen for an inspection. But a renewed focus on accuracy this year would produce dividends for farmers.
“With the three-year strategic programme I will have in place in the summer, I’m confident we can see a real improvement for our customers across the full range of our activities, including the Single Payment Scheme.”
Describing the agency as an organisation on the brink of change, Mr Grimshaw pledged to tackle problems that had prevented the timely and accurate correction of farmers’ entitlements.
“I am determined to deal with the legacy of poor data. Correcting data not only eats up finances but also slows payments. This is why I am determined to draw a line under this in the coming year.”
Mr Grimshaw said he accepted it was a real issue for farmers when payments were delayed. The work being done to make validated manual payments reflected the agency’s determination to address the situation.
He added: “We are making payments to farmers as quickly as we possibly can, but with a real focus on accuracy so that longstanding issues with some claims can be addressed.”
Read the full interview with Mark Grimshaw.