PAUL Caldwell has been appointed chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

He was made interim chief executive in January after serving as the Basic Payment Scheme operational delivery director since 2010.

Clare Moriarty, Defra permanent secretary, said: “He has already been instrumental in improving performance, delivering over 99 per cent of BPS 2016 payments by the end of June 2017, first as operations director and then as acting chief executive.”

Mr Caldwell said: “My commitment to improving our service to farmers remains stronger than ever. I look forward to leading the agency, providing stability and support to this vital sector as we prepare to leave the EU.”

Guy Smith, NFU vice-president, welcomed the appointment. He said: “We have with Paul over many years, in particular, tackling common land claims where we have seen real progress. We look forward to a constructive and productive relationship going forward.

“Paul takes charge at a critical time in our view, inheriting a number of BPS implementation challenges including a backlog of correction cases from 2015 and 2016 and an expectation that payments for 2017 will better reflect what farmers have applied for.

“Also, we have their agreed target to meet or exceed the payment levels reached for BPS 2016 – more than 91 per cent of claims worth £1.4bn. This is set against a backdrop of emerging thinking as to how our own agricultural policies following Brexit might be delivered.”