The Rural Payments Agency is being ordered to slash the amount it costs to process single farm payments.

Announcing the agency’s targets for 2010/11, DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn said the current cost of £1743 to administer each claim had to be reduced.

The RPA has been slammed by the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee for wasting millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money on administration costs.

But the agency’s business plan for the coming year vowed to reduce administration costs by almost 10%, while costs per claim would be cut by 15%, it said.

Mr Benn also pledged that 85% of 2010 single payments would be made to English farmers by the end of the year, while 95% of the value of claims would be paid by 31 March next year.

The payment targets are up from the 75% and 90% targets set last year, reflecting the year-on-year improvements the RPA had made in delivering services, the minister said.

The agency was also tasked with making more effort to engage with farmers, with a target introduced to encourage claimants to submit their single payment applications online.

The plan said the RPA was also considering how to provide online mapping images in a bid to modernise the application process, while the agency would move towards communicating with farmers via email.