One-day turn-round for online claims

7 February 2001

‘One-day turn-round’ for online claims

By Donald MacPhail

A SWITCH to online form-filling will mean that farm subsidies could soon be dispatched within a day, says the chief of a new agency to streamline claims.

Johnston McNeill, chief executive of the new Common Agricultural Policy Paying Agency, told FWi this was feasible for some subsidies, provided claims were submitted without errors.

“Now that would be something for farmers, as I know how important these payments are,” he said.

CAPPA will take charge of Ministry of Agriculture and Intervention Board subsidies this year. Farm minister Nick Brown hopes to switch 95% of subsidy claims online by 2004.

The CAPPA chief was speaking after giving evidence to the Agriculture Select Committee at Westminster on Wednesday (07 February).

He told MPs that farmers would still be able submit claims on paper until they were comfortable with new technology, unless farm minister Nick Brown said otherwise.

However, he admitted that while information technology training would be offered, producers would not receive funding to buy computers.

He added that forums and focus groups involving farmers were being set up to ensure that producers were informed of what was going on.

Mark Todd (Lab, South Derbyshire) questioned whether salaries offered would attract the necessary calibre of candidates to top posts – including Mr McNeills job.

MPs were surprised that Mr McNeill could not provide figures on savings from computerising the system and urged him to remedy this.

They cautioned CAPPA not to be carried along with political pressure to maintain momentum but ensure the overhaul was properly thought through.

“Im not necessarily bound to deliver on time,” insisted Mr McNeill. “The most import thing is to get it right.”

While six regional MAFF offices are not included in CAPPA plans, Mr McNeill told MPs that their future was not yet decided.

Mr McNeill said afterwards that CAPPA was considering introducing mobile advice shops which could be sent to markets.

CAPPA is scheduled to begin operations on 1 April with a formal launch on 16 October.

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