RPA announces bridging payments for farmers
Bridging payments will be made to the 10% of farmers yet to receive their 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money in recognition of the cash flow pressures they are facing, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) announced yesterday (Tuesday, 19 April).
Speaking at the NFU Council in Kenilworth, RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said these final cases were proving more difficult to process than had been anticipated – because of the complications caused by a new inspection regime and changes to how commons applications are processed.
He confirmed that with around 10% of farmers left to pay it was now possible to administer bridging payments in a rigorous and swift fashion.
Thanks to a focus on prioritising full payments, around 90% of applicants have been paid – ensuring most farmers received their entitlement as quickly as possible and minimising the risk of disallowance.
The bridging payments will be made by the end of April. As with RPA’s established process for making hardship payments, which has helped 505 farmers with £8 million of support, the bridging payments will be based on around half of their claim value.
Chief executive of the RPA Mark Grimshaw said:
We know how important these payments are for farmers and our priority has always been to get the majority of farmers payments as quickly as possible.
We are now processing the last 10% of complex claims and recognise this is taking longer than we anticipated. With the bulk of farmers paid, we are now introducing bridging payments to ease financial cash flow for those farmers still awaiting full payment.
We hope this step offers some help while we continue working seven days a week to complete our processing of remaining 2015 claims.
The 2015 BPS scheme required RPA to carry out more, and different, inspections because of the new greening requirements. This included new items for inspection such as Ecological Focus Areas.
Meanwhile, common land claims have taken longer due to the new approach this year which distributes money only between those who use the common, rather than allocating a proportion based on everyone who has a registered right.
Exchequer funded, bridging payments ‘bridge’ the gap until claims are validated and funds can be reclaimed from Europe.
BPS 2016 - new support features introduced
Meanwhile, Mr Grimshaw also told the NFU Council that applications for BPS 2016 continue to come in with over 14,400 online applications submitted and 2,300 paper applications received so far.
With four weeks to go to the 2016 deadline on 16 May, all farmers are now urged to make sure they submit their 2016 application as soon as possible.
The advice to anyone who has not received a payment is to use the latest information they have available.
New features have been added to the support available to 2016 BPS applicants, making it easier to access some of the help needed. The new features include an option for agents to speak directly to a dedicated team. There is also a 24/7 automated service for applicants who have a paper application form but want to apply online for the first time. To set up an online application form applicants just need to call 03000 200 301 and key in their SBI number and contact details.
Farmers and agents who want to add land parcels to their application can now email firstname.lastname@example.org to have these included. Alternatively, they can fill in a continuation booklet and post it to the RPA. These are available on GOV.UK.
All those who applied for BPS in 2015 should now have received a paper version of the ‘How to claim BPS online’ guidance. This is available on GOV.UK. Onscreen help is also available to provide a step-by-step guide on applying online.
Help is also available to farmers and agents on the helpline number above and at 14 online support centres across the country.
And RPA is taking the questions farmers and agents are asking as they apply for their 2016 BPS, and turning them into helpful hints and tips in a document which is available on GOV.UK/rpa/bps2016.
It has just been updated to include practical answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, including:
- The best web browsers for the Rural Payments service.
- What to do if land shows in the wrong region online.
- How to filter the ‘Land use’ screen so it is easier to make changes.
- How to claim on common-land grazing rights.
- What to do online when claiming land in dual use.
There’s also a new hints and tips video: