FARMING leaders have expressed “no confidence” in the senior management of the Rural Payments Agency.

After years of major problems, they have called for the agency blueprint to be torn up to start again.

The stinging criticism was made by the heads of the National Farmers’ Union, Country Land and Business Association, and the Tenant Farmers’ Association.

It followed a meeting with RPA chief Tony Cooper and Defra minister Lord Davies over the single payment scheme (SPS) and mapping issues.

Peter Kendall, William Worsley and Greg Bliss, of the NFU, CLA and TFA respectively, said they had been as supportive as possible to the new senior team who had tried to improve things after the agency’s “disastrous” start.

But it was increasingly clear that the RPA was still in trouble and unable to function effectively.

On the current re-mapping problems they said RPA figures and statements did not reflect their members’ reports about lack of maps, incorrect data, missing fields, contradictions between inspection findings and issued maps, and amendments not shown on re-issued maps or SP5 forms.

With the May 17 SPS deadline approaching, they called on the RPA and Defra to:

● ensure farmers were not penalised for mistakes not of their doing;

● take into account all supporting information sent in with SP5 forms;

● give clear guidance on the RPA approach to incorrectly declared field areas;

● urgently consider deferring the SPS deadlines.

The leaders said it was inconceivable that the late delivery and poor quality of maps sent to thousands of claimants would not affect the processing of 2010 SPS claims.

They want Defra and the RPA to be ready to make part payments in December and to liaise on their implementation.

The RPA has confirmed that around 3,000 farmers have still not received their 2009 payment.

The leaders said it was completely unacceptable.

They said: “For many farmers SPS support is critical to cash flow and the viability of their businesses. Partial payments must be actively considered in every case and implemented wherever possible.”

The leaders said they were not criticising front line RPA staff who were doing their best to help “anxious and frustrated”


They said: “Our concerns and criticisms are entirely reserved for senior management of the RPA and those in Defra responsible for its performance.

“The RPA is a failing agency with a deeply flawed delivery model. It has lost our confidence and the confidence of our members.

“An urgent and honest root and branch review, backed up by a willingness to tear up the whole blueprint and start again, is vital if we are to have any chance of reaching a steady state as far as delivery of SPS and Environmental Stewardship schemes are concerned.”