Farmers ‘angry and disappointed’ at plan to axe payment office

Farmers in one Welsh county face a two-hour round trip to their nearest rural payments office because the Welsh government is considering axing a key office at Dolgellau.

A rise in the volume of queries being dealt with online is a reason why the Rural Payments Wales office has been earmarked for closure.

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But the Farmers’ Union of Wales said limited broadband in the region would leave many farmers with little choice but to make the journey to Caernarfon for assistance with Basic Payment Scheme issues.

The FUW’s Meirionnydd branch said it was “angry and disappointed’’ by the closure proposal.

County executive officer Huw Jones said the union would fight hard to safeguard the service.

“Whilst it is accepted that more and more issues are dealt with online, there are a large number of farmers who have got no broadband which makes it impossible for them to run a 21st century business,’’ he said.

Local MP Liz Saville Roberts, who has also stepped in to defend retention of the service, called on the government to look carefully at the potential impact of closing the office; this should include a detailed breakdown of anticipated savings.

“They (the government) should also be prepared to explain how this matches with sustainability targets,’’ she said. “How is it fair for farmers to have to bear the cost of driving to Caernarfon when it is evident that agricultural officers working at Dolgellau once a week on market day are both cheaper and more effective in terms of face-to-face communication and the number of people helped?

“Meirionnydd is a rural area whose communities are greatly dependent on agriculture. I am concerned that the Welsh government is reducing its presence in one of the most important services it provides for this region.’’

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