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Rural Payments Agency recovers from IT breakdown



Basic Payment Scheme figures for calendar year point to big improvement in processing of eligible claims through online system

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has reported that it is close to hitting its target for payments to farmers in the calendar year, indicating that it is recovering from the IT problems that undermined its operations during 2015.

It said it that 68,200 farmers in England have now received a payment under the Basic Payment Scheme – the largest element of the EU’s agricultural support arrangements – accounting for 79% of eligible claimants and £1.14 billion.

This compares with just 38% by 1 December last year, a failure that was attributed by the National Audit Office (NAO) and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to failures in the development of a new IT system.

The RPA has a target of paying 90% of the claims by the end of the year, and said it “remains focused” on doing so.

In October, the NAO followed up its earlier criticisms with a report saying that an increasing number of farmers had become able to use the online application system in the course of the year; although it also pointed to lingering problems with other elements of the IT development.

Northern Ireland success

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has reported that it has already surpassed its own 95% target for paying eligible applicants by the end of the year, having hit a rate of 96% with a value of £251 million.

Agriculture Minister Michell McIlveen said this was largely because an increased number of applications had been submitted through the department’s online system.

“I hope that even more farmers will recognise the benefits of applying online and help us to further improve on payment performance in the future,” she said.

Image from Donnylad, Creative Commons through Wikimedia

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