The Rural Payments Agency has answered a series of questions put by Farmers Weekly about the progress it is making in terms of getting money to the 3000-plus farmers who are yet to receive any single farm payment.
The RPA’s answers are as follows:
Q How many farmers have been paid their SFP in full? How many are still to receive anything? How many of the people who received a partial payment are still to receive a top-up?
A. As of 31 May 2006, 80% (about 96,000) of the 120,000 Single Payment Scheme customers had received a full or partial payment, representing 89% (£1.331bn) of the total amount to be dispersed for the 2005 scheme. 73,000 applicants had received their full payment; 23,000 applicants had received a partial payment, but were waiting for a ‘top up’ payment. The remaining 24,000 claimants had not received either a full or a partial payment. The majority of the latter group were due to receive less than €1,000 each, but about 3,500 applicants with claims for over €1,000 had still to receive either a full or partial payment.
Q. Why can’t the RPA contact everyone who has not had a payment to talk about the reasons why?
A. We are categorising these customers into priority groups and, in cases where a phone call is appropriate, calls are being made, for example, to sort out customer registration issues over bank account details, probate issues and so forth. Some of these issues are more complex and require a written exchange to resolve them.
Q. Why have some farmers received less than the 80% partial payment?
A. All partial payments were calculated at a rate of 80%. However, the calculation took account of data held in our validation system at a specific point in time, which in some cases meant that the payment was based on a lower entitlement value than that reflected in the claim. In other cases the 80% payment was reduced to reflect late claim penalties.
Q. Are the people who have had a partial payment further down the priority list than those who have had no payment?
A. As you would expect, customers who have had no full or partial payment for claims over €1,000 are our top priority. Top up payments to those who have received a partial payment for claims above €1,000, together with SPS claims from HFA claimants, are next in priority order. We are trying to get payments to these groups of people as soon as possible.
Q. How many claims are being cleared for payment, on average, each day?
A. It varies day by day, as you would expect with a multitude of different claims at varying stages of completion. On average, recently, over 1,500 claims are being completed and paid a day.
Q. Has the UK been given permission to extend the payment deadline beyond Jun 30?
A. No. We do not expect the European Commission to accept proposed changes to the payment window but they have indicated that they may look at the application of penalties which currently apply to payments made after the deadline.
Q. Why did the RPA upgrade the computer system now, before everyone has received a 2005 payment?
A. We have used the Easter and Spring Bank Holidays to minimise disruption to the business to carry out essential SPS 2006 scheme computer upgrades. To put off the work entirely until after 2005 payments were made would have caused a severe impact on work for the 2006 scheme year. The next available Bank Holiday period to do this work would be the end of August.
Q. Is there anything anybody can do to speed up either a full or top-up payment?
A. From a customer point of view, by having their paperwork available to answer questions if they receive a call from RPA processing staff, to try and resolve any outstanding issues with their 2005 claim. RPA staff themselves are continuing to do everything possible, including utilising new working practices, to speed up the payments and make them as fast as possible.
Q. Why have some farmers who received validated statements in February – along with a promise of a payment shortly – still not been paid?
A. In a small number of cases, issues were identified after the dispatch of validated statements. This resulted in payments being held pending resolution. Most of these payments have now been released and we are working on the remainder as fast as we can.
Q. What is the current situation regarding HFA claimants?
A. As of 2 June, 4522 claims had been paid with a total value of £7.127 million. Some land mapping issues are outstanding in many of the remaining cases, and we are awaiting customer responses to questions which could free up around 1000 of these HFA claims for payment.