Will RPA now help hard pressed farmers?
AFTER months of bitter acrimony between the chaotic Rural Payments Agency and unpaid farmers, there are signs that the two sides are drawing closer together - despite that fact that there are still thousands of farmers and landowners waiting to receive their 2005 payments.
Until now, RPA officials have even refused to talk to unpaid claimants - but yesterday, it was announced that all people in the queue would be contacted by telephone in the next few weeks so that they can discuss the many outstanding problems.
This news delighted members of the Country Land and Business Association, who's Northern Director, Douglas Chalmers, commented: "RPA staff will now be telephoning all those who have not been paid, and hopefully will do so in the next two weeks.
"Speaking directly to farmers should lead to any outstanding problems being resolved and payments being finalised. The CLA has been continuing our regular high level meetings with RPA officials. The RPA has finally agreed to contact those who have not received their 2005 payment to discuss the situation.
"Does this finally mean we are near the end of the 2005 scheme? If so, we hope that this means that all available resources can now be deployed to speed up this year's claims. In the meantime, we are delighted that persistent lobbying on behalf of our Members and the industry as a whole has led to another hurdle being overcome."
...we hope that this means that all available resources can now be deployed to speed up this year's claims
Douglas Chalmers - CLA
The RPA was accused of simply ignoring farmers when Mrs Margaret Beckett was secretary of state at the rural affairs ministry, Defra. After her shock appointment as Foreign Secretary, she was succeeded by David Miliband, one of the new wave of young cabinet ministers.
Miliband is said to be the running to become Deputy Prime Minister when Tony Blair retires and appears to be determined to strengthen his reputation for efficient management by forcing big changes on the RPA.