RPA still finds excuses for their poor delivery of BPS 2015 on commons

Our local MP Tim Farron has been working hard on our behalf to get explanations to our questions on non-payment of BPS on common land. See below for the latest round of correspondence.

The response from RPA once again tells us about all the challenges they have faced in implementing BPS. Fair enough, but they are getting paid to get this right. It has been far more difficult for the farmers who have had to face continual delays, poor communication and months before their claims have been settled in full and accurately. We have countless examples of the strain waiting for payment has placed on farmers shoulders.

I think the only welcome point in RPA's repsonse is the move back to a more personalised single operator service, where you can speak to a knowledgeable (hopefully) advisor rather than be passed round the houses.

 

Dear Mr Farron

I’m writing further to your email below to Neville Lane about payments to farmers whose land includes commons.

Mark Grimshaw has received the representation from the North West NFU, CLA North and the Federation of Cumbria Commoners to which you refer below. We’re still considering how to respond to this, including the possibility of meeting with them.

In terms of 2015 payment, it’s quite possible the outstanding payments have been made over the last few weeks but if there are any specific cases you believe are still unpaid then please let me know.

You’re already aware of the challenges of the first year of BPS and our aspirations for improvement going forward. Lessons have been learnt from 2015 and these are already having an impact for 2016, which the RPA expects to be easier for our farmers - including those with commons. The focus is on paying 90% of farmers by the end of December. Whilst commons claims won’t be excluded from the earliest payments, we can’t give accurate timings for specific customers at this stage.  

We’ve also reviewed the way the Agency handles customer contact.

One area we are looking to improve is our customer service levels -by having a point of contact for our customers. We are doing this by allocating BPS claims to our people for customer contact purposes. Customers and agents should continue to direct calls and correspondence to the RPA via the usual channels. All calls should be routed to the Helpline in the first instance. Our people on the Helpline are trained to be able to answer many questions and will be the first point of contact in all cases, both for farmers and for agents. If the Helpline is unable to answer the query they will forward the caller on to the relevant point of contact.

 

With best wishes

 

Naomi Baxter | Official Correspondence Team | Customer Directorate

Rural Payments Agency | PO Box 352 | Worksop | S80 9FG

tel: 03000 200 301 | Email: officialcorrespondenceteam@rpa.gsi.gov.uk

Follow us on Twitter @Ruralpay

 

 

From: Tim Farron MP [mailto:tim@timfarron.co.uk]
Sent: 05 October 2016 13:54
To: Lane, Neville
Subject: TF- Ref: Lewi054/1/jag

 

Mr Neville Lane

Head of Complaints and Appeals

Rural Payments Agency

Sterling House

Dix’s Field

EXETER

EX1 1QA

Our Ref: Lewi054/1/jag

                                                                                                5 October 2016

Dear Neville

I write to represent my constituents with regard to the non-payment of the BPS 2015 especially to commoners and other farmers in Cumbria.

As you know, having had extensive conversations with my case work team, many people still have outstanding payments to receive and feel aggrieved at the slowness and inefficiency of the RPA in the way in which they have handled or “not” handled this year’s payments. To quote from a recent email:-

“We very much appreciate your efforts to put pressure on the Defra and RPA so that commoners and other farmers get paid their BPS 2015 and thank you for passing on the correspondence from Angela Leadsom.

But the RPA is still failing to meet deadlines and honour commitments. For example we had a committee meeting last week and of the 11 active commoners at the meeting, two have not received any payment on their common at all yet (along with their fellow commoners). All have written to RPA as they don’t believe their payment is correct. They all said that when they eventually managed to speak to someone from RPA the person couldn’t provide answers to payment queries or give them much information. They have no confidence that the BPS 2015 payments will be completed by the 15th of October.

The NFU are having another push at RPA and we and others are helping. I have no confidence that we will get anywhere, it just seems like payments on common land are too complex, messy and difficult and therefore are expendable.”

This is reflective of the large body of correspondence we have received as well as anecdotal evidence and would kindly request that their questions are answered- namely when will those with common land be paid out?

Thank you for your time and assistance in this matter.  

 

Yours sincerely

 

Tim Farron MP