DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn has conceded the Rural Payments Agency is not yet performing as the government would like, despite delivering a full or partial payment to 98.2% of claimants for 2006.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday (2 July) Mr Benn reported that the RPA had succeeded in paying out 98% of the total fund for 2006 to 107,088 (98.2%) of claimants.  About 2900 claimants have received a partial payment and await a balancing sum, he said. 

Work has also to be completed on a further 2000 claimants, mainly small ones and those affected by probate. 

The minister also confirmed that those who receive a payment after 30 June will receive interest on the sum on the same basis as in 2005: The London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) plus 1% on late payments over £50.

“I am able to report that the Agency has succeeded in both making the majority of payments earlier than last year, so boosting farmers’ cash-flow, and meeting its formal target of making 96.14% of payments by 30 June. I am grateful to RPA staff who have worked long and hard to make this happen,” Mr Benn said.

But he added the RPA’s performance still needs to improve.  “There need to be further improvements in the RPA’s performance, however, before it can be said that it is again providing an acceptable level of service.”

To do this the RPA will now focus resources on resolving the 20,000 cases from 2005 where entitlement values have been identified for review and possible adjustment, either upwards or downwards.