Rural Payments Agency chief executive Mark Grimshaw has launched a scathing criticism of the agency’s former bosses.
Speaking at an NFU council meeting in Leamington Spa, Mr Grimshaw vowed to make significant improvements to the way farmers receive their Single Farm Payments.
In a damning description of the way the agency was previously managed, he said he would no longer allow a situation where “lions are led by donkeys” and promised farmers they would see changes in six months.
Mr Grimshaw, who took over in January, said he was committed to the role and was working on a five-year plan to help the agency improve its role.
“I feel the RPA is on the brink of change, he told NFU delegates on Tuesday (28 June).
“I will be working over the summer on a five year plan for the agency, setting realistic targets and expectations based on the evidence we have gathered from reviews of the agency. We will be looking to better understand the needs and issues surrounding the Single Payment Scheme”.
Mr Grimshaw said he had recruited a new team of directors to the agency in a bid to change its operations and properly tackle the problems with payment delays.
He said an initial plan for 2011 was to change the agencies targets from the volume of payments made towards value based targets.
“We will take a different approach to case management to sort out plain issues earlier,” he said.
“I believe there are significant changes ahead for the industry and agency and I am confident that working together we can start to improve payments.”
Mr Grimshaw admitted the current approach was for agency staff to leave larger complicated claims until later in the year when they had “run out of easy things to do”.
He added: “That’s not very sensible so we should be sharing our cases that don’t require case worker intervention and try to get people with completion experience to work with difficult cases earlier in the year.”
NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said he had taken heart from Mr Grimshaw’s optimism but urged him to set achievable targets.
“If we can put farmer frustration towards the RPA behind us, improve cashflows and help farmers, then that’s great,” said Mr Raymond.
While previous RPA chiefs had pledged change, he felt confident Mr Grimshaw would work hard to put right the issues that had plagued the agency.
“We are impressed by his determination on those issues” Mr Raymond said.