29/03/06 ~ Single Payment Scheme (SPS) Weekly Update
Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told Parliament on 27th March she had already sanctioned several actions recommended by acting Chief Executive of Rural Payments Agency, Mark Addison to speed up payments to farmers:
- focusing RPA resources on making the 2005 payments as fast as is legally possible;
- removing four (from six to two) disproportionate checks from the payment authorisation system to speed up the flow of payments once claims have been validated;
- prioritising work on validation of claims to release the maximum value of payments as quickly as possible, as opposed to the maximum number of individual claims, an action which will mainly benefit middle size claims particularly among customers with historic entitlements;
- centralising key mapping work at a single office in Reading;
- strengthening the RPA’s capacity in key areas, and changing the RPA’s structure to streamline command and control.
The Secretary of State last night (28th March) sanctioned a number of additional steps recommended by Mark Addison, as follows:
- reform RPA processes to deliver greater customer focus by dedicating teams of staff to work on individual claims rather than the current task-based approach, subject to successful pilot work;
- as part of that change also allow processing staff to communicate with applicants directly by phone to work through any outstanding issues;
- implement a discrepancy tolerance of 2 hectares or 3% of total area claimed, whichever is the lower, for validation of claims;
- stop redundant quality checking processes so that staff can concentrate on claim processing;
- locate the people doing the mapping work alongside those processing claims on the same site;
- where mapping correspondence is outstanding, be able to make payments on the basis of the information which RPA already have from farmers;
- appoint a senior manager to take charge of the delivery of 2006 claims; and,
- address obstacles in current HR procedures that would prevent the retention of experienced staff.
Any further options which can be identified for accelerating validation of claims and authorisation of payments will be put to Ministers for endorsement as soon as their usefulness can be clearly established.
So far, £206m has been paid, as of close on 28th March, to 27,862 customers. This represents real progress, but there is still a huge amount to do.
RPA is not making any forecasts about how much will be paid out by when.
RPA’s Acting Chief Executive is: i) keeping all aspects of process under review, and reporting back to Defra Ministers regularly; ii) leaving no stone unturned on simplification of validation and payment systems; iii) continuing to keep other contingency options open, in accordance with proper stewardship for dispensing public monies.
Minister for Sustainable Farming Lord Bach is keeping key stakeholders in close touch with developments; having met farming leaders again today, and will meet with banks and agricultural supply industry representatives tomorrow.
Page published: 2 September 2010