Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has made the following statement to Parliament:
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will today begin payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Over the next few days payments totalling over £1 billion are expected to be made to some 80,000 claimants. This represents over 75% of eligible claimants.
Further progress towards the Agency’s 2010 SPS payment targets - to pay 85% of eligible SPS claimants by the end of December 2010 and to pay 95% of the value of SPS payments by the end of March 2011 - is being closely monitored by the RPA Oversight Board which I chair. Against the background of the additional workload created by the update last year to Rural Land Register and reduced staff numbers, it is clear that meeting those targets represents a significant challenge.
Farmers may be assured that outstanding payments will be made as individual claims are verified. But that will not mean cutting corners: I am determined to bring a renewed focus on accuracy to the administration of the scheme so that legacy issues are addressed once and for all and the Agency is then able to deliver a better quality of service to farmers in the medium term. Equally, we need to ensure taxpayers interests are safeguarded by ensuring our actions represent good value for money and further discussions will take place with the National Audit Office to that end.
As we progress through the payment window, I will keep the House informed on the Agency’s progress towards its targets and any related decisions by the RPA Oversight Board. At an individual level, the RPA are writing to farmers where it appears unlikely that payment will be made during the course of December.