© Crown copyright 2021
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/european-structural-and-investment-funds-coronavirus-covid-19-response/european-agricultural-fund-for-rural-development-2014-to-2020-programme-rural-development-programme-for-england-growth-programme-questions-and-answer
The response to the COVID-19 virus creates significant challenges for us all. We are in an unprecedented situation with very wide-ranging impacts across the wider community.
We recognise that the current situation creates uncertainty and significant challenges to every one of you involved in the delivery of existing RDPE Growth Programme projects and the development of projects in the pipeline.
We are currently in discussion across Government to assess the impact on ESIF programmes and with the European Commission regarding its proposed response to the situation. We will update you on any further developments as soon as possible.
Many of you have raised questions about the continued delivery of the RDPE Growth Programme, both around arrangements for delivering existing projects and for applications under the Round 3 call that closed in February. We have provided responses to some of your initial, most common questions below.
We will continue to review these questions and answers over the coming weeks and publish updates when things change.
Questions and Answers - First Published on 1 April 2020
Will you continue to process claims from existing RDPE Growth Programme projects?
Yes. We recognise how important it is at this time of uncertainty for businesses to maintain cash flow and avoid unnecessary disruption to project finances. Where you are able, please submit claims on time along with supporting documentation (see question 2 below).
If you are unable to meet the claim dates in your Grant Funding Agreement (GFA) please contact RPA as soon as possible using the contact details in your GFA and then submit your claim as soon as you can.
Will you continue to require the same documentary evidence to support claims?
If you are sending a claim, email the completed Excel document to email@example.com as normal.
As a result of disruption caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation leading to the closure of certain RPA offices, RPA has made changes to enable you to submit your claim completely electronically. As part of this amended process, you will need to print and sign the declaration page of your claim form, scan it in or take a photograph and email it to RPA.
If you have supporting information, such as invoices, bank statements and photographs, scan these or take photographs and email them to RPA. If you have a large number of attachments, you can send more than one email, but if you do this, please include in the subject line your project reference number and title, and make sure that you include the number of emails you are sending, such as 1 of 2.
If you are unable to submit your claim electronically, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let RPA know and it will review your individual situation. You will need to keep your hard copy of the signed claim form until RPA asks you to submit it at a later date. Please also keep all hard copy documents and evidence to maintain a complete and robust audit trail as claims will be verified as usual at a later time.
Question 3 (updated 11/08/2020)
Will you be able to process my claim payment without carrying out an on-site inspection?
Following government announcements to ease Lockdown restrictions, Inspections are now proceeding with some changes to incorporate social distancing measures. It is hoped that for the vast majority of Agreements these checks can be completed as normal and within social distancing protocols.
You may be asked to supply records and satisfactory evidence of project completion and defrayal electronically as part of the inspection to assist with meeting social distancing requirements. If local lockdowns or future changes to the current guidance prevent an inspection taking place then you may be asked to provide electronic evidence of project completion and defrayal to allow payment of your claim.
If my project takes longer to complete, will I be able to extend the agreed delivery period?
We recognise that project delivery could be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 due to its impact on the supply chain, workforce availability or cash flow.
Email RPA as soon as you become aware that you might need to request a variation to your claim schedule, project milestones or to make RPA aware of any other changes to your project.
You must tell RPA about any changes to your project as soon as possible and before any changes take place (unless these changes are unforeseen, where force majeure may apply). If RPA is able to agree changes, then it will issue a formal variation to the GFA.
Will my project automatically be penalised if agreed outputs cannot be delivered as a result of the impact of COVID-19?
Email RPA as soon as you become aware that you might need to request a variation to your claim schedule, project milestones or to make RPA aware of any other changes to your project. If RPA is able to agree changes, then it will issue a formal variation to the Grant Funding Agreement (GFA), but please note that any variations must be requested in advance (unless completely unavoidable in which case force majeure might apply).
Can I change my planned project activity under current rules to help me deal with the current situation?
While we might be able to agree changes to project milestones, including claim dates and schedules, we are unable to agree to the use of RDPE Growth Programme funds to provide wage subsidies or grants to support working capital.
How do I inform and get agreement from the Rural Payments Agency for any changes to my project?
Project delivery could be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 due to its impact on the supply chain, workforce availability or cash flow. These ongoing conditions may affect, or already have affected, progress with project milestones.
You must email RPA to tell it about any changes to your project as soon as possible and before any changes take place (unless these changes are unforeseen, where force majeure may apply). If RPA is able to agree a variation, it will issue a formal variation to the Grant Funding Agreement (GFA).
Question 8 - (updated 11/08/2020)
I have an existing RDPE socio-economic contract but work on my project has been delayed by COVID-19, can my final claim date be extended?
Ministers have agreed that contracts for RDPE socio-economic projects that were signed before end June 2020 can be extended by up to six months if delivery has been seriously affected by Covid-19. Project holders should contact their delivery body project contact if they cannot meet their existing claim deadlines.
Question 9 - (updated 19/01/2021)
I have submitted a Full Application but am worried that Covid-19 could have an impact on my ability to get my project completed by the stated deadline of September 2021?
We recognise that COVID-19 could impact on businesses’ ability to deliver their projects in line with the completion deadline of end September 2021 set out in the Scheme Handbook and we are now extending this. Each project agreed will be given a realistic deadline for completion by the RPA, but we expect that all projects will be completed and have claimed their funding by end December 2022. If you submitted a Full Application, you can discuss your project timeline with the RPA project sponsor named in the letter endorsing your EoI as part of the Full Application process.
Question 10 - (updated 19/01/2021)
I have been offered a new Growth Programme contract when do I have to have my project completed and final claims submitted to the RPA?
Each project agreed under the 3rd Round of the RDPE Growth Programme will be given a realistic deadline for completion by the RPA, but we expect that all projects will be completed and have claimed their funding by end December 2022.
Other RDPE Socio-Economic Schemes (e.g. LEADER or Countryside Productivity)
I have a project under another RDPE scheme, do the arrangements set out above apply to me as well?
RPA has contacted all agreement holders with live projects under RDPE Countryside Productivity Large Grant scheme. If you have a live LEADER project, you will be contacted by the Accountable Body to which you submit claims to notify you of all relevant changes.