Farmer Focus Arable: Robert Law thinks RPA faces challenge to cut costs

I read that Hilary Benn has told the RPA that the cost of administering each Single Farm Payment claim must be reduced from £1743 to £1480, still way ahead of the £250 it costs to administer a Scottish SFP claim.

Furthermore, virtually all Scottish 2009 claims were paid out by the end of last year, while in England, at the beginning of April, approximately 5000 cases were outstanding. These are some of the more complex applications, but it is clear that it is the same people every year that end up at the bottom of the heap.

I’ve haven’t heard from the RPA since submitting mine last May, indicating there are any problems. I called the helpline last month to see if there were any issues only to be told that the RPA wasn’t obliged to pay me until 30 June.

A second call a week ago acknowledged that it was checking previous years to see if it had made an overpayment, followed by a refusal to make any payment.

On 1 April, I finally received the maps for one of my claims and found that this holding had expanded by 7ha. This sent me scrambling for further entitlements before the transfer deadline that night. This is set against a backdrop of immovable dates in any farm business’s calendar: tax to be paid by the end of January; rents due on Lady Day; and pension contributions and investment allowance to be made by 5 April.

The farming press is full of letters and articles about the problems that RPA customers are having with maps, forms, payments and a helpline system that can’t cope. This makes me wonder where the RPA will be able to shave 15% off its costs.

• For more columns from Robert Law

• For more columns from other Arable Farmer Focus writers

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