Farm secretary working on the RPA website© Tim Scrivener

[UPDATE: The RPA helpline was back up and running from 2.30pm on Friday (1 April)]

Farmers still waiting for vital subsidy payments worth thousands of pounds were left in the dark after the government’s rural payments helpline went down on 1 April.

Thousands of farmers are still awaiting their annual Basic Payment – despite repeated assurances that almost all claimants would receive their money by 31 March.

See also: Agency misses deadline to pay ‘nearly all’ farmers by April

Callers trying to find out more from the government’s rural payments telephone helpline were cut off as the line went dead following a recorded message on Friday (1 April).

Farmers dialling the 03000 200301 number and pressing option 4 were greeted with an apology but no explanation as to why the helpline was unavailable.

“Sorry, due to circumstances beyond our control, we cannot take your call at the moment,” said a recorded message.

“Please try our online services or try later. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The phone line then went dead.

Earlier, the Rural Payments Agency said it was aware of the “volume of calls” to the helpline.

An RPA spokeswoman said: “We are receiving calls on a range of different subjects and we are reviewing our resources as a matter of urgency.”

Lines were busy between 0830hrs and 1100hrs so it was advisable to call between 1100hrs and 1500hrs.

“In the event that customers do not feel able to wait for their call to be taken they can either email or write.

“We will respond as soon as we can.”