Mistakes and poor judgment elsewhere ‘behind RPA’s chequered performance’

Clacton farmer Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union.

Clacton farmer Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union. - Credit: NFU

Mistakes and poor judgment elsewhere were behind the chequered performance of the government body which manages subsidy payments to farmers, a farming leader said as its boss announced his departure.

Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency.

Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency. - Credit: Archant

Rural Payments Agency chief Mark Grimshaw said today that he will be leaving the organisation after six years at the helm.

He will be replaced by incoming interim chief executive Paul Caldwell, who is currently the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) operational delivery director.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Guy Smith praised the outgoing boss, and said he had put the organisation on an even keel, but he also criticised the government’s performance on payments.

“The chequered delivery of Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) payments over the last two years has not been an easy time for our members, NFU staff or the RPA,” he said.

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“During that time we were always mindful that the RPA were not the architects of the IT meltdown in the spring of 2015 that lay at the root of the problems.

“This was due to mistakes and poor judgement made elsewhere. You could say that as RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw had to receive the ultimate hospital pass.

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“Given the gale he had to sail through, Mark has captained the RPA ship well to the point it now seems on an even keel. We are also mindful of the considerable improvement in the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) delivery the RPA showed from 2010 to 2014 under his leadership.

“We wish him well in his retirement and look forward to working with his successor.”

Farmers Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said although the RPA had come in for criticism, not all of the problems were its fault.

It was a “major missed opportunity” that it was not given sole responsibility for managing the successor scheme in 2015, he said.

“Instead, responsibility was shared between DEFRA, the RPA and the Government Digital Service and total carnage in 2015 was only avoided when the RPA won the argument to abandon the digital only application route. We are still living with the consequences of that poor project management.”

Mr Grimshaw said it had been “a great privilege” to have led the RPA and its “exceptional” people through some major changes.

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