A MATTER of deep regret is how the new Rural Affairs Secretary is describing problems faced by farmers over the late payments fiasco at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
In one of his first acts as head of Defra, David Miliband placed a written statement before the House of Commons in which he acknowledged the difficulties faced so far, and adding that lessons will be learned from the debacle with the arrival of a new boss at the RPA.
David Miliband - late payments are
"a matter of deep regret"
A European Union deadline of the end of June for the 2005 Single Payments to be made is fast approaching, yet only 48 percent of farmers have received their entitlements so far.
Mr Miliband confirmed that a trial run of 1, 000 partial payments took place at the end of last week, and so far this is showing promising results. Following this success, a further £730 Million is expected to be paid put in partial payments over the coming week.
"The fact that previous estimates of payment timetables were missed, and the problems this has caused for farmers up and down the country, are a matter of deep regret," said David Miliband.
"I am determined that the right lessons are learned from our experience this year, first to prepare for the undoubted challenges that will exist in the delivery of the 2006 scheme, and second to move to a more stable position for the 2007 scheme year."
The Secretary of State went on to announce that Tony Cooper will join the RPA on 15th May as interim chief executive in succession to Mark Addison.
"Mr Addison accepted the post at short notice in March in order to address the immediate challenges facing the RPA and has, I know, made a real impression over the last couple of months.
"However, his was always intended to be a short term appointment and he will leave the RPA at the end of the month."
Mr Cooper will join the RPA with 15 years experience of business and IT change within the public sector and what is described as a proven track record in successful programmes and business change.
"My Permanent Secretary recruited him on the basis that he has the skills and experiences needed by the Agency at this stage of their recovery programme," added Mr Miliband.
Arrangements for a permanent appointment to the RPA chief executive post will be made at the end of the year, following a fundamental review of the Agency.