RPA payments ‘draw line under IT problems’

More than 99% of people eligible to receive the 2010 Single Farm Payment have been paid, the Rural Payments Agency has said.

By the end of June, £1.75bn had been paid to 103,604 farmers and landowners across England.

Just 594 claimants were waiting to receive their share of £25m left to pay out by the agency.

Farm minister Jim Paice, who heads the RPA oversight board, said the volume of payments made beat the EU’s benchmark of 95.2%, meaning the government would avoid a fine for late payments.

In an update to parliament on Tuesday, Mr Paice said he was happy with the figure after efforts had been made to increase payment accuracy and to “draw a line” under the IT problems that had plagued the agency.

“Significant progress has been made on legacy data correction activity so providing greater confidence for farmers about their subsequent scheme year payments,” he added.

“Nevertheless, I recognise that a significant number of farmers had to wait longer than usual for the payment, which I regret.”

Mr Paice said he realised the agency still had much to do to make payments to the remaining 2010 claimants.

However it was likely that a number of the remaining cases were not eligible for payment, or that they money could not be paid at present due to reasons such as probate, he added.

“The remaining backlog of potential error cases also needs to be reviewed and overpayments notified to claimants and recovered.

“This significant volume of work will be undertaken alongside processing of 2011 scheme payments.”

Mr Paice said RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw would develop a strategy for the agency over the summer, which would include a payment timetable for 2011.

“The plan will be put to the RPA Oversight Board for approval in the autumn and the final version published soon after,” he said.

“More generally, the board will continue to monitor the agency’s efforts closely to ensure a line is finally drawn under all the legacy data issues over the coming year.”