Wrong RPA advice leads to £45k payout for farmer

A young farmer has received a £45k payout after the Rural Payments Agency gave him the wrong advice on his single farm payment application.

The farmer, aged in his 20s from Herefordshire, tried to have his entitlements for the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) changed permanently from his grandparent’s name in 2011. To do so, he needed to send the RPA an RLE1 form.

But when his farm secretary called up the RPA to make the change, she was told there was a problem with the computer system and was told to wait until it had been resolved before returning the RLE1.

See also: Farmer frustrated by three-year RPA paper chase

The farm secretary called the RPA several times before the deadline to check if the computer problem had been fixed. But it wasn’t fixed and the secretary was never asked to send in the form, meaning the deadline was missed.

An investigation by the Parliamentary and Health ombudsman found the advice given by the RPA was wrong. Because the RLE1 form had not been completed, the farmer did not receive his expected SFP payment.

The RPA apologised to the farmer and paid him his SFP entitlement of £45,377.30 for 2011, including £1,468.71 interest and an additional £1,000 for its poor handling of the service.

Herefordshire-based land agent John Amos, who complained to the ombudsman service on behalf of the young farmer, said his client was “delighted” with the outcome.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigates 4,000 cases a year and upholds about 42% of complaints from individuals about UK government departments, other public organisations and the NHS in England.

An RPA spokesman said: “This case happened before the introduction of our new complaints review and handling process which allows us to identify poor service and remedy it more swiftly.

“We have learned lessons from this case and we now have more robust procedures in place to administer lease amendments and provide guidance to our customers. 

“We have apologised directly to the farmer involved in the case.”

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