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Recent Warmwell postings on the RPA ( Rural Payments Agency) Since Jan 2006

The fiendishly complex system of payments was introduced in 2005 by Margaret Beckett. In 2006, Boris Johnson wrote:The move away from separate crop and livestock subsidies to a single payment based on land owned, led to a bureaucratic nightmare. As these pages show, farmers were left facing bankruptcy because of late payments - and a £75 million EU fine had to be paid by DEFRA using money vital for other things. By October 2009, there had been 3 separate NAO scrutiny papers (and a Committee of Public Accounts investigation) all deeply critical of the whole scheme and its overseers. In July 2010 the latest report commented, "the review process was made unnecessarily difficult by the RPA leadership resisting its commencement."
In the July 2011 NAO report, Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office However, the EFRA Select Committee's report published in 2015 "Work of the Committee: 2010-15" talks of ".. the waste of around £600 million over the years in EU fines because of the RPA's failure properly to implement the 2005 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) settlement." RPA website

June 2016 ~ On 1 May the RPA claimed that all farmers had received either a full BPS payment or a bridging loan worth 50% of the value of their 2015 claim. Not true, according to NFU.

November 10th 2015 ~ "I'm no computer Luddite, but..."

November 6th 2015 ~ Hard-up farmers getting nervous about possible payments delay

July 14th 2015 ~ "Defra's annual report and accounts has highlighted the huge cost of the maladministration of the previous CAP regime and also revealed the cost of the IT problems the blighted this year's BPS application.."

April 24th 2015 ~Problems with the online system mean it is likely farmers will have to wait longer for their money this year...

April 23rd 2015 ~ BBC's Farming Today at NFU HQ on April 21st recorded Mark Grimshaw's session at NFU Council.

March 24th 2015 ~ RPA mentioned as part of DEFRA's "consistent failure of the Department to meet goals it sets itself."

March 20th 2015 ~ "We are essentially going back a year, giving people the paper option"

January 2015 ~ Question marks over applying for the new digital-only "Rural Payments" system .

June 2014 ~ Changes set by the EU will cost around £150m - and may lead to "a time-consuming and frustrating process for farmers"

April 1st 2014 ~ Defra's new £154 million IT system "will ensure there is no repeat of the 2005 payments fiasco"

May 19th 2013 ~ Angus Growers won the appeal by the Scottish Ministers / RPA."I regret to say that in my opinion the RPA emerges from this case with no credit"

May 18th 2013 ~DEFRA "pocketed £10,000 in revenue" from high rate phone lines operated by the Rural Payments Agency.

July 2012 ~ The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) still cannot say how much it has overpaid and underpaid farmers since the Single Payment Scheme began, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

June 2012 ~ "the standard of proof used by the RPA for assessing an intentional over-declaration was wrong.. the penalties imposed were unlawful... the penalty was entirely disproportionate to the offence."

28th April 2012 ~ Rural Payments Agency Framework Document - Hansard

April 28th 2012 ~ RPA new Framework Document - the "vision"

April 20th 2012 ~ The Rural Payments Agency has been accused of picking on small farms to boost the recorded number of inspections it carries out.

April 17th 2012 ~ Rural Payments Agency helpline (0845 603 7777)

February 17th 2012 ~ POs: The Scottish Land Court has given its verdict on Scottish Producer Organisations "That the Scottish Ministers should simply accept the RPA approach - that legal issues were too difficult to bother with - is beyond the scope of useful comment by us."

February 11th 2012 ~ RPA uses spy satellites and drones to "check for irregularities"

January 26th 2012 ~ RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw assesses the RPA's systems and processes..."quite frankly have not been fit for purpose"

January 26th 2012 ~ PQs yesterday

December 21st 2011 ~ RPA has announced its 'best ever' Dec SPS performance.

November 30th 2011 ~ DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) have agreed to pay out thousands of pounds to farmers who suffered financially from maladministration of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

November 2011 ~ "We are new to this issue and looked rather gobsmacked at the history" Margaret Hodge, Chair of PAC Committee

November 9th 2011 ~ "Communications with farmers who are not paid early in the window must be improved now.." James Paice

August 5th 2011 ~ "Since Wednesday morning I've been receiving calls and emails from POs that have been de-recognised."

August 4th 2011 ~"I can't see that the RPA would be offering to meet if there was not something to discuss, although I struggle to get an answer out of them about anything."

August 1st 2011 ~ No belt-tightening for Tony Cooper, it seems

July 25th 2011 ~ Tim Farron says the RPA is letting farmers down

July 21st 2011 ~ The National Audit Office (NAO) has refused to sign off Whitehall accounts for a third year - the RPA has caused DEFRA more than £500m in EC fines.

July 6th 2011 ~ EFRA Committee calls for block on Rural Payments Agency bonuses

April 28th 2011 ~ Yet more EU fines for RPA - and a poor lookout for the UK's Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisations

April 19th 2011 ~ NFU President Peter Kendall is one of over 6,000 farmers still waiting for their 2010 RPA payment

March 31st 2011 ~ "... the Agency calculates that there are now in the region of 6,300 eligible claims remaining to be paid, with a combined value of around £215 million."

March 7th 2011 ~ The Rural Payments Agency will fail to hit its target of paying 95% of 2010 claims by the end of March.

February 3rd 2011 ~ Rural Payments Agency "... it is becoming far more efficient, with better work practices and a new chief executive who started a fortnight ago. I am convinced we can do better with less." Paice

January 19th 2011 ~"he does not consider that the Rural Payments Agency accounted correctly for euro transactions in 2008-09"

January 6th 2011 ~ "Achieving our 85% target is an important milestone..."

December 21st 2010 ~ "But that leaves about 20,000 farmers still waiting to receive their money."

November 26th 2010 ~ RPA again: Bad news for the UK's fruit & vegetable producers

November 9th 2010 ~ The latest EU fine for RPA errors made between 2005 and 2007 brings the total that the Government has paid out in late-payment fees to nearly £200 million in five years.

August 2010 ~ "How accurate a picture do you, at senior level, have about what is really going on?"

July 29th 2010 ~ RPA and DEFRA blamed by the National Audit Office for the £millions of public money lost from the country in order to pay EU fines

July 27th 2010 ~ DEFRA appoints interim RPA chief

July 20th 2010 ~ Executive Summary of today's Report says RPA "stuck in the past"

July 20th 2010 ~ The Rural Payments Agency's use of funds on advertising, public relations, consultants/contractors, bonuses, entertainment and overtime

July 14th 2010 ~ Tony Cooper, the chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, is to quit his post at the end of month

May 8th 2010 ~ RPA blueprint should be torn up to start again, say farming leaders

April 21st 2010 ~ RPA mapping - a show of frustrated hands at the NFU Council meeting is "a barometer for the industry and the problems that are out there."

April 14th 2010 ~ "Re RPA - I find them very, very helpful.."

April 13th 2010 ~ "Is it a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted?"

March 26th 2010 ~ "It remains a scandal that... fines for late payments by the Rural Payments Agency amount to £90 million. Does the Minister not accept that the money would have been better spent on ensuring fair competition for our farmers, particularly when it comes to imports?"

March 18th 2010 ~ " If Smiley's people cannot handle the likes of IBM, how on earth can the minnows who run the RPA do so?"

March 17th 2010 ~ Jim Fitzpatrick has apologised to affected farmers after 500 SPS 2010 application forms were sent out incorrectly.

February 18th 2010 ~ In December, the EFRA Committee took evidence on the functioning of the Rural Payments Agency:

Feb 9 2010 ~ Tim Farron: "How many single payment scheme claims made in 2009 remain outstanding?"

February 9th 2010 ~ Public Administration Select committee "deeply concerned" by DEFRA's refusal to compensate farmers

January 26 2010 ~"The big problem is - and we see this time and time again - is the RPA computer system."

January 12 2010 ~ "..while farmers were left waiting for their Single Farm Payment the RPA was shelling out millions in bonuses." Jim Paice

December 19 2009 ~ front-line staff "courteous and as helpful as they possibly could" "... the real failure to deliver lay far above them, at a senior level"

December 16 2009 ~ Ombudsman says DEFRA has not accepted her recommendations in full

December 16 2009 ~ RPA: "disastrous IT system, poor management, delays in payments the biggest debacle in the committee's history..." says Public Accounts Committee

December 11 2009 ~ Masterclass in misadministration?

December 11 2009 ~ Churlish.

December 4 2009 ~ growers wondering whether the RPA is going to stop their producer organisation (PO) grants for good.

December 3 2009 ~ DEFRA's £5m review of the RPA "not a cynical PR exercise to make people love the RPA"

December 1 2009 ~ The EU payment window runs between December 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010.

November 13 2009 ~ "My fear is that it is a cost-cutting exercise rather than a response to efficiency.."

October 30 2009 ~ "....far too long to resolve a number of late payments"

October 29 2009 ~"DEFRA knew about this and did nothing..."

October 15 2009 ~ Single Farm Payment fiasco is condemned by the National Audit Office

September 3 2009 ~ RPA faces inquiry

August 3 2009 ~ DEFRA spent half a billion pounds on consultants and temporary staff

July 28 2009 ~ "criticised for its financial management generally, and especially for its poor management of the single payments scheme for farmers."

July 23 2009 ~ £21.4 million (covering the period January 2007 to April 2010) to complete a new set of maps

June 30 2009 ~ More than 900 farmers are now believed to have been sent inaccurate maps that threaten to leave them unable to claim subsidy payments

19 December 2008 ~ RPA in 'overpayments' shocker says NFU

September 12 2008 ~ "I think that you do have a tradition of being a rather bureaucratic and top heavy department. Do you really need in the Rural Payments Agency the best part of 5,000 civil servants to manage payments, subsidies, given to just over 100,000 farmers?"

Thursday 17th July 2008 ~ RPA officials paid more than £175,000 in farm subsidies to a Norfolk farming family - and then two years later asked for the money back.

May 8 2008 ~ Thousands of farmers still waiting for their single farm payment for last year.

Jan 25 2008 ~ Private Eye 1202 25.1 - 7.2.08 Down on the Farm

January 10 2008 ~ £63 million has already been paid in EU fines for late SFP payments; National Audit Office has warned the bill could reach £292 million.

December 18 2007 ~ Full Single Payments to begin in England this week

December 12 2007 ~ The chaotic Rural Payments Agency could end up costing the taxpayer up to £292 million, it emerged last night.

December 11 2007 ~ DEFRA is not issuing receipts.

November 2007 ~ RPA's minuscule payout calls system into doubt

October 2007 ~ RPA effectiveness May 2006 to October 2nd 2007

September 17 ~ "How much money has to be wasted and how many lives ruined ....?"

September 6 2007 ~ The government's failure to get EU subsidies to thousands of farmers on time has been called "a master-class in bad decision making" by MPs.

July 25 2007 ~"The Government appears to have taken the Pontius Pilate approach and washed their hands of it because it was somebody else's responsibility. On some of the key issues, they have not engaged at all."

July 9 - 14 2007 ~ Continuing frustration at lack of accountability

June 12 2007 ~ " just cannot afford any more time on Mr Miliband's bureaucratic administration of the English interpretation of the CAP"

June 6 2007 ~ RPA. Mrs Beckett's legacy lingers on

May 28 2007 ~ It is the wrong approach; it leads to mistakes, confrontation and disaster

May 15 2007 ~ The RPA needs to pay out about another £280m over the remaining seven weeks to meet its deadline this year

April 27 2007~ Single Payment Scheme Lord Rooker unable to answer questions about the level of the EU fine

April 27 2007~ Lord Rooker admitted that when David Miliband first came to DEFRA, he thought about bringing in a new payment system

April 23 2007~ The Rt Hon Margaret Beckett will surely go down as one of the least effective ministers - and that says a lot - to oversee rural affairs.

April 2007~ Some of the Press stories following the findings of the EFRA report, published 29 March

April 3 2007 ~ Mrs Beckett should have been sacked

    "A culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service delivery," says the report. "Accountability should mean that good results are rewarded but a failure as serious as this of a department to deliver one of its fundamental functions should result in the removal from post of those to whom the faulty policy design and implementation can be attributed." icwales
      ".....Defra's leadership was at fault for accepting the RPA's statements that the project was "do-able" in the time allowed as an adequate basis on which to pursue such a risky course. The report said Mr McNeill was not personally and solely responsible for the failure to pay farmers. All the crucial decisions were made jointly with Defra. Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said, "The fact that Margaret Beckett was rewarded for her incompetence by promotion to the Foreign Office says a great deal about the Government's contempt, not only for accountability but for the farming community."...."

April 3 2007 ~ Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron

    chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, is quoted by the North West Evening Mail He says he is pleased the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of MPs have issued a report criticising former DEFRA Secretary of State Margaret Beckett over the Rural Payments Agency fiasco. Mr Farron says the RPA has been guilty of a catalogue of errors over recent years, leaving thousands of farmers without Single Farm Paymen ts, which could lead to an EU fine of up to £300m.

March 29 2007 ~ "The Committee very much regrets the former Secretary of State's attempts verbally to distance herself from the consequences of policies which she herself must have approved "

    The EFRA report on the Rural Payments Agency, published today (pdf) and expressed in the clearest and most unequivocal English, says that Margaret Beckett, Sir Brian Bender and Andy Lebrecht have not been held "personally accountable" for delays. The EFRA chairman, Michael Jack, said: "The reason that we are calling for people to consider their positions is because of Defra's failure to carry out one of its principal core functions. Those involved should examine their consciences about the role they played in this failed venture, which could well cost Defra and farmers up to half a billion pounds." The report calls the handling of the SPS a "catastrophe" and a "serious and embarrassing failure for Defra and the RPA."
    It also recommends that the Cabinet secretary reappraises the work of the past and present members of Defra's senior management team to determine whether they should remain in post.
    "Decisions should not be made in isolation from practical realities," says the Committee - a sentiment with which long term readers of warmwell will heartily concur..
    The overview begins,
      "This report is as much about failed policy implementation as it is about a lack of accountability..... In our view it is this failure by Defra to carry out one of its core functions in accordance with its own policies which differentiates this issue from the myriad of botched Government IT projects.....The Government does not seem to be learning the lessons of previous failures. There is a need for greater expertise within Government....
      accountability for the eventual failure of Defra's ambition has been limited so far to the removal and eventual dismissal of Mr Johnston McNeill, the Chief Executive of the RPA, and one minister accepting some measure of accountability for what occurred following his removal in the reshuffle in May 2006. But responsibility for this failure goes wider than this. It embraces the then ministerial and senior official leadership of Defra and they too should be held accountable.
      Some of those in the Defra and RPA leaderships most closely involved, in particular the former Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, the former Permanent Secretary Sir Brian Bender, and the Director General for Sustainable Farming, Food and Fisheries, Andy Lebrecht, have moved on unscathed or stayed in post. A culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service delivery. "
    The HTML page where individual sections of the report can be read is at

March 28 2007 ~ The RPA fiasco is likely to cost the country £500 million

      "...the cost includes up to£305 million in fines from Europe, £156 million on "fixing" the failures at the Rural Payments Agency and £21 million in interest payments to farmers last year. In a long-awaited report which is expected to be critical of the Government, MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee are expected to determine whether responsibility should rest with a wider range of ministers and officials than who have lost their jobs so far.. The role of Andy Lebrecht, the senior official responsible for the payments policy, who briefed ministers on whether the complicated system chosen to make the payments would work, may be examined......".
    It is interesting to see this name turning up in the press at last. Taking responsibility for actions should surely be the first principle of a government or government agency - especially one that persists in talking about "customers"- as if those who pay have any real choice.

March 10 2007 ~ Over 3000 people employed by the RPA with a total paybill 2005-2006 of over £85 million. Highest salary £ 205,000.

March 2 2007 ~ Farmers still waiting to receive EU subsidies have been told . "don't call us, we will call you".

February 23 2007 ~ Select Committee blames DEFRA financial mismanagement for budget cuts

February 23 2007 ~ How Defra hid its bad news

February 22 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown has bailed out his cabinet colleague David Miliband with more than £300m of taxpayers' money

January 29 2007 ~ Michael Jack, is now demanding an explanation for the sheer volume of unresolved cases.

January 18 2007 ~"....there was now a need to broaden the question of accountability of Ministers as well as officials.." Michael Jack

January 18 2007 ~ RPA ".... this is about accountability. Here we have got mounting complexity and problems.. and yet onward sailed the ship heading towards the iceberg. What I want to know is who was on the bridge?"

January 15 2007 ~ the RPA has admitted that thousands more farmers are waiting to receive the correct money.

January 4 2007 ~ "Rural England has paid twice for the RPA debacle.."

Clive Aslet, writing in the Telegraph Opinion column, pulls no punches on the subject of Margaret Beckett, the RPA and New Labour's attitude to farms and farming.

December 9 2006 ~ Johnston McNeill has been sacked nearly nine months after he was suspended on his £114,000 year salary.

December 6 2006 ~ RPA fiasco must not be repeated - says Lib Dem Rural Affairs Spokesman

November 28 2006 ~ "It is like mashing your head against a brick wall..."

November 27 2006 ~ "The government is trying to end the employment of the former head of the troubled Rural Payments Agency

November 23 2006 ~ RPA staff will be telephoning all those who have yet to be paid in the next two weeks


November 14 2006 ~ "Just one-tenth of only one year's money unspent would have covered the £23 million spent by farmers on interest and fees to banks as a result of their late single farm payments."

November 10 2006 ~ Farm subsidy delays could continue into early 2009 because of the total incompetence at the Rural Payments Agency, a leading trade union has warned.

November 9 2006 ~ "there's some super people in DEFRA who work extremely hard on our behalf"

November 8 2006 ~ Fiasco to roll on for another year

October 26 2006 ~ "The department and the agency knew from the beginning ..."

October 24 2006 ~ Lord Rooker: "... the catastrophic lack of trust that we had this year, which would be compounded if there was a problem two years running."

October 20 2006 ~ It beggars belief that all those people who make the greatest messes are promoted or given honours, rewarded with bonuses, or kept on full pay.

October 20 2006 ~ ".... what sort of Government do we have that keep the then chief executive on full pay six months after he was sacked, and promote the responsible Minister to Foreign Secretary?"

October 18 2006 ~ NAO report covered on BBC "auditors found a catalogue of management errors.....Our correspondent added that industry experts say it is inevitable some farmers will go bankrupt as a result. "

October 18 2006 ~ RPA's Johnston McNeill is still being paid his £114,000 salary

October 18 2006 ~ Little prospect of the problems being remedied in time to deal with the 2006 claims

Sept 28 2006 ~ Thousands still waiting for money

Sept 15 2006 ~ "I feel if we could just sit down together, with all the paperwork, we could solve all this in half an hour."

Aug 15 2006 ~ Vital hill farm support still hasn't been received by some farmers in Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire

Aug 10 2005 ~ Four 'naked civil servants' fired by RPA

Aug 5 2006 ~Lord Haskins "can't get any sense" out of the RPA

Aug 2 2006 ~ RPA bungle has led to DEFRA Budget needing to be cut by £200 million

July 7 2006 ~ Fresh evidence of Stress caused by delays

June 23 2006 ~ 2,300 claimants of more than 1,000 have not been paid, and about 12,000 - it might be 12,200 - claims of less than 1,000 have not been paid.

June 23 2006 ~"I am grateful to the Secretary of State for keeping the House informed of the modest progress that is being made to deal with this problem.

June 23 2006 ~ What other budget lines will be cut to defray the extra cost?

June 16 2006 ~ Oliver Letwin says that the RPA in "no position" to lecture farmers on small mistakes

June 15 2006 ~Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) permanent staff and (b) temporary staff

June 13 2006 ~Complaints of scandalous and time-wasting behaviour by staff at RPA

30 May 2006 ~ Ian Johnson : "This whole scheme has been nothing but a fiasco.

19 May 2006 ~ "... if we are going to protect British agriculture, then let us at least do it efficiently.

12 May 2006 ~" Tony Blair's decision to allow John Prescott to keep his pay and perks has left him unable to appoint a full-time minister

12 May 2006 ~ RPA cost us £634 million between 2002 and 2005

12 May 2006 ~ Bishop Michael Langrish questioned whether ministers had fully understood the impact of the chaos at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on the wider rural economy.

10 May 2006 ~ Baroness Ashton of Upholland turns down poisoned chalice

9 May 2006 ~ "grief, stress and financial burden"

8 May 2006 ~ "How can you expect us to ever believe you again?

8 May 2006 ~ .Margaret Beckett gave out £100,000 to rural-support organisations offering counselling before she was reshuffled. Yes, counselling.

7 May 2006 ~ Bitter harvest (Telegraph Opinion)

6 May 2006 ~ Farewell to the can carriers

06 May 2006 ~ Beckett leaves farm aid mess for Miliband

May 2 2006 ~ Letters in the Guardian - Human cost of farm payment delays

April 30 2006 ~ Beckett's farm payments chaos

April 28 2006 ~ Double Whammy for English Farmers (26 April)

April 22 2006 ~Oral Answers to Questions - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Single Payments Scheme (20 Apr 2006)

April 19 2006 ~ Single Farm Payments announcement adds insult to injury


April 11 2006 ~Weston MP John Penrose is backing Mr Bateman's campaign.

April 11 2006 ~ Members of the NFU's ruling council have said that they will want DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett's resignation

April 7 2006 ~ Single Farm payment FAQ - in Farmers Weekly

April 6 2006 ~ "stakeholders" have received this letter from Defra. How much public money did it cost to send?

April 6 2006 ~ Cash delays are pushing farmers to the brink

April 4 2006 ~ "...All he has received is a letter informing him of the amount he is still owed.... in Euros".

April 2 -9 2006 ~ "You have stated that if payments are completed by the end of June interest does not arise. That may be the legal situation but it is certainly not the moral one."

April 2 -9 2006 ~ "...situation is nothing short of scandalous. The worst of it is that it was entirely predictable."

April 2 - 9 2006 ~ " Margaret Beckett declared: "I take full responsibility." She meant she had just sacked one of her officials..."

April 2 2006 ~ RPA " Northallerton office has had to recruit dozens of sixth-formers from the local comprehensive to come in, between six and nine each evening, to help sort out the mess.

March 31 2006 ~ the latest RPA processing error "Not for the fainthearted"

March 25 2006 ~ "....completely blind to the economic and human' consequences of the RPA's failure"

March 17 2006 ~ RPA head sacked

January 25th 2006 ~MPs on the Committee were staggered that the Minister could still not give a definitive statement