Thursday 24 November 2016

The Rural Payments Agency acknowledged this week they need to review 25% of 2015 common land claims as there are discrepancies between the area paid on in 2014 and that paid to date in 2015. These 1200 cases are being reviewed because the Foundation for Common Land, together with other stakeholders, highlighted the errors in the control data.

Julia Aglionby, Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land now attends RPA’s Senior Stakeholder Meetings and appreciates the improved dialogue with the RPA. But Julia notes “However good any system is the old adage of "junk in - junk out" holds true. Sadly my attendance in Reading does not magically resolve the errors in the mapping data for common land that underpin many of the 1200 review cases. That requires skilled staff, better quality assurance and an improved protocol for mapping large and complex field parcels.”

RPA’s efforts are now concentrated on paying 90% of farmers their 2016 claims by the end of December and these unresolved complex cases are unlikely to be in the 90%.  Yet again commoners are at the back of the queue. The shortfall in cash is impacting on lives, commoners are resorting to food banks and in one case the bailiffs have turned up as credit ran dry.

Mark Grimshaw, CEO, RPA told the EFRA Committee he hopes that these 1200 businesses will be paid their correct 2015 payment by the end of January 2017. The Foundation remains concerned that this will be a challenging target given the complexity of the errors in the control data. Julia Aglionby has been asked to meet RPA’s operations director Paul Caldwell on a regular basis, to monitor and assist the RPA resolve these cases.

The Foundation will hold RPA to account to pay the full and correct amounts for common land to commoners. Additionally the Foundation is disappointed the RPA has said they have no plans in this financial year to make maps of common land available to claimants. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to assess if the amount paid is correct so further reducing confidence in the system.