The union representing staff at the Rural Payments Agency has told MPs that parts of the organisation have been “flooded with consultants”, some costing as much as £2000 a day.

The Public & Commercial Services Union provided damning evidence about the state of the RPA when they appeared before the environment, food and rural affairs select committee on Monday (24 April).

PCS officials said it was not unusual for a contractor or consultant to occupy a civil servant post and some of the consultants had been there for well over five years.

At the other end of the scale, they said there were significant numbers of low-paid agency workers, who were paid the minimum wage to work unsociable hours.

Glenn Ford, PCS DEFRA group vice-president, told the committee that staff were concerned as early as February 2005 that the government’s payments targets would not be met.

“When we raised the issue, we got assurances that everything was fine.

We were told that our members weren’t seeing the whole picture,” he said.

An RPA spokesman added that “it was not the case” that RPA staff had known that payments targets would not be met.

The agency did employ 142 consultants, but only one of these was on the £2000-a-day rate and the others were on “considerably less”.

Temporary staff were used by the RPA to give it flexibility.