Single farm payment system ‘horrendous’

A Rural Payments Agency employee has described the computer system being used to process single farm payments as “horrendous” and claimed that staff are doing their best to sort out the chaos.

A RPA staff member has contacted Farmers Weekly’s website anonymously to report that he/she has been working seven-day weeks since the beginning of February.

“Please recognise that SFP was a scheme brought in against the wishes of the ‘ground troops’ such as myself, and we have been made to carry the can while management comes up with supposed fixes to the horrendous system they stupidly rushed through in the first place,” the employee said.

“I hate the system. I hate the scheme.

But, in the end, I am an RPA employee and we are supposed to be public servants.

“I know we are not doing a very good job of it at the moment, but it is really not the wish of the processors (most of whom earn between £5 and £7 an hour, so are not really highly paid) to put farmers out of business.

We are not withholding payment from you on purpose.”

The staff member, who posted on the Talking Point forum, described themselves as a permanent employee working their usual five days a week in their own department, plus evening and weekend shifts on SFP.

“Since the beginning of February I have been working for a full seven days a week with no holidays or breaks or anything.

So nearly 60 days on the trot.

“We minions are just trying to do our best with the awful tools we’ve been given to get your rightful money to you.

So please, please, please understand that we are all in this mess because of management and the empty promises that have been made.

“I wish all farmers in the UK every good wish and I hope that none of us is ever put in this situation again.”

Speaking in the House of Lords last week, junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach claimed the RPA was satisfied with the performance of its IT system, which was working for 15 hours a day during the week and eight hours a day at weekends.

But he acknowledged that the new chief executive of the RPA, Mark Addison, had identified “considerable problems” in resolving mapping issues.

An RPA spokesman declined to respond to the comments.