On Thursday 17 November we attended a presentation to a small group of Valuers given by Mark Grimshaw, Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency at the Farmers Club in London.  Also at the meeting was Simon Lunniss who is the RPA’s Stakeholder Manager.

In the Q&A session which followed we were able to put questions directly to Mr Grimshaw which, to be fair to him, were answered in a straightforward and matter of fact way.  This paper is written to provide an update as regards any outstanding payments for the 2015 Scheme year and the prospects of claimants for the 2016 Scheme year:

Generally

  1. The RPA are currently working through c.12,000 queries raised about the quantum of 2015 BPS payments.
  2. In the majority of cases, the reason that payment deficiencies have arisen is because their new computer system is designed to pay out the minimum amount possible by relying on RPA’s baseline data where that differs from the data provided on behalf of the applicant. We were told this is because they got into hot water with the EU Commission over making payments to claimants and then having to claw money back when it became apparent that they had overpaid in the past.
  3. The RPA believe that they are on track to pay out over twice as many claimants in the first stages of the payment window opening on 1st December 2016 than they were at the same period on 2015. If you have now received the majority of your payment for 2015 then the likelihood is that you will be paid on exactly the same area in the 2016 claim and any top-up from a correction in the data they hold will then apply to both the 2015 and 2016 Scheme years.
  4. At the present time, approximately one in four farmers in this part of the world have some form of problem with their claim or other. The RPA have said they have allocated us a specified Relationship Manager and we received an assurance from Simon Lunniss that the RPA have allocated resources to deal with the outstanding problems.  Quite when this work will be completed, he could not say.  However, it was clear from their presentation and answers that they are working on a much more constrained budget basis than ever before, so we have to be realistic about the timescales involved when clearly their priority at the moment is reaching EU set targets for payments made in the 2016 BPS Scheme year.
  5. If you are a WBW client then the RPA knows about your issue and knows what we expect the payment should be to be correct. They say they are working through cases on a value basis.  So, if you are unlucky enough to have a high value of payment outstanding then they should get to your case before someone with a small amount owing.
  6. They have specifically asked us not to telephone with enquiries as to progress. The people manning their helpline will not have access to any specific information and so the call will not serve any purpose other than to frustrate the applicant and divert RPA resources away from resolving problems.
  7. If you are suffering financial hardship, then there is the opportunity to be treated as a hardship case by going through either the Farm Community Network or Samaritans. Without going through this particular process then we are afraid it is just a case of waiting whilst the RPA deals with the backlog of 2015 problems.

Commons

  1. Nationally, the RPA know that they have approximately 1,200 customers who have money outstanding against their Common Land entitlements. The total amount still due to be paid (by their calculations) amounts to some £40 million.
  2. When asked the direct question when all the Common Land problems were likely to be resolved, Mr Grimshaw came back with March 2017 as the final back-stop date. However, after the meeting, Simon Lunniss expressed his hope (and genuine expectation) that the majority of outstanding issues (but not all) would be resolved by the middle of December this year.
  3. This led us on to question what policy the RPA were adopting in terms of paying out farmers in the 2016 BPS Scheme year. Sadly, there was no good news to be had here.  The reality is that if you have not received anything other than a bridging payment for 2015 then you will receive nothing from the 2016 Scheme until the 2015 issue is resolved.  Once 2015 issues have been resolved then the 2016 payment will be released instantaneously thereafter.  But, by Mr Grimshaw’s own estimation, for some people this may not be until March 2017.
  4. If you have already received the bulk of the payment relating to your Common Land but there is a question over the quantum, then the likelihood is that you will be paid on exactly the same area/entitlement in the 2016 BPS year and top-ups will be made for both Scheme years as and when the problems are resolved.
  5. So, if you are in the unfortunate position of awaiting a significant proportion of your 2015 BPS, it may well be as late as March 2017 before this is released and, as a consequence, your 2016 BPS payment will be withheld until then also. You may, therefore, wish to reconsider the opportunity of applying for a payment under the Hardship Rules dealt with at 7 above.

Posted by Adam Winthrop MRICS FAAV

Director, WBW Surveyors Ltd

Date: 23.11.16   E & OE



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