New CAP scheme likely to be delayed by year, warns Rural Payments boss
Last updated at 15:47, Friday, 17 February 2012
A reformed Common Agricultural Policy is likely to be delayed until 2015 according to Britain’s Rural Payments Agency chief.
Mark Grimshaw told The Cumberland News that he expects the new scheme to come online a year late as the European Parliament rapidly runs out of time to ratify it.
Speaking as the RPA’s five-year plan to overhaul its business was unveiled, he said the delay would give his staff more time to prepare and avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
He said: “We can already begin to specify a future system to administer the reformed CAP. We want to be able to do that as early as possible so we can take it through the development and testing process.
“It’s going to be very challenging to deliver the new scheme in 2014 and we’re expecting its go-live date to move to January 2015.
“It gives us a lot more time to make sure our system can cope with the new requirements. Historically, the decision to go quickly into implementation contributed to some of the difficulties.
“They are still currently talking about 2014 but we know the European Parliament has to ratify the agreement and they are beginning to run out of time.”
This year, farmers have received their single farm payments (SFP) much more quickly – 4,960 agricultural businesses in Cumbria had received theirs by last week from a total of 5,340.
A problematic £350m computer system installed by Accenture in 2005 will be replaced as part of the plan, which is designed to stabilise the RPA.
“We have a contract with Accenture and Oracle that runs until the end of March 2014,” added Mr Grimshaw.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve dramatically reduced our reliance on Accenture’s support. Their system is being run and maintained rather than a policy of invest and develop.
“Technology has moved on considerably. We’ve not settled on a system to run the future scheme, we’re talking to the cabinet office.
“We can’t rule out using the same firm because European procurement rules stop us from doing that.”
In five years, the Agency aims to have moved all payment applications online and will probably outsource its computer contracts.
Mr Grimshaw acknowledged that the tough financial conditions will make it difficult to implement the plan. He said improvements would see the Agency releasing a booklet of updates on changes to SFPs rather than issuing an entire new guide.
One of the plan’s key aims is data analysis to identify inherent problems. The RPA’s plan to move all applications online and abolish paper-based applications has been criticised by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA). It fears this could disadvantage farmers in Cumbria who do not have fast broadband.
Dorothy Fairburn from the CLA said: “This move by the RPA is an example of the Government and its agencies saving their own costs without appreciating that a significant number of rural businesses do not have the broadband connectivity required.
“Until the Government can guarantee a quality broadband service for everyone, they simply cannot force farmers and landowners in the ‘internet slow lane’ to waste hours of their already pressed time trying to fill in forms online.”
First published at 14:07, Friday, 17 February 2012
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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