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Rural Payments Agency

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many payments have been made by the Rural Payments Agency to farmers in (a) mid-Bedfordshire, (b) Bedfordshire and (c) the UK in each year since 2000; and if she will make a statement. (63056)

Details of payments made by the Rural Payments Agency under farm-based schemes are set out in the tables. Payments to farmers in mid-Bedfordshire and in Bedfordshire are available only for the two years 2003-04 and 2004-05.

(a) Payments made to farmers for mid-Bedfordshire

£ million

2003-04

6.708

2004-05

6.638

Note: Analysis by parliamentary constituency is not available prior to this date.

(b) Payments made to farmers in Bedfordshire

£ million

2003-04

18.455

2004-05

17.670

(c) Data for farmed-based schemes payments made by RPA for England

£ million

2000-01

1,400.391

2001-02

1,424.346

2002-03

1,549.150

2003-04

1,799.029

2004-05

2,119.490

The detail supporting each of the years in the tables can be found in RPA's Annual Report and Accounts under House of Commons publication numbers HC 1197 (for both 2000-01 and 2001-02), HC 940, HC 1009 and HC 82 respectively.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many claim forms for the 2006-07 Single Payments Scheme (a) were sent by the Rural Payments Agency to potential applicants before 13 April 2006 and (b) have been sent on or since 13 April 2006; and if he will make a statement. (68880)

The Rural Payments Agency issued 84,334 SPS application forms to potential applicants before 13 April 2006 and a further 33,902 application forms have been issued on or since 13 April 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people have been sent a set of application forms for payments in 2006 by the Rural Payments Agency; how many completed applications have been returned; and how many forms remain to be issued. (68930)

The Rural Payments Agency issued 118,236 SP5 application forms between 21 March 2006 and 26 April 2006 to known customers. As of 25 May 2006, 90,225 completed application forms have been returned and logged. No forms remain to be issued.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what proportion of e-mails to the Rural Payments Agency have been (a) acknowledged within one working day and (b) replied to within 15 working days in each month since October 2001. (71517)

The following information refers to e-mails sent to the Rural Payments Agency's Customer Service Centre (CSC), e-mail address CSC@rpa.gsi.gov.uk. The CSC was established in February 2005 and the following information is based upon statistics collected from 29 April 2005 to 16 May 2006.

Month

e-mails received

Resolved within 15 days

April 2005

71

61

May 2005

1,519

1,416

June 2005

341

277

July 2005

495

433

August 2005

583

515

September 2005

647

523

October 2005

772

659

November 2005

813

665

December 2005

888

757

January 2006

1,148

906

February 2006

1,002

760

March 2006

3,057

2,857

April 2006

1,356

1,111

May 2006

969

785

All emails to CSC@rpa.gsi.gov.uk are acknowledged automatically. The acknowledgement includes a set of frequently asked questions aimed at answering the customer's general questions immediately.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many telephone calls to the Rural Payments Agency Customer Service Centre resulted in left messages in the last 12 months; and what proportion of those calls were returned within one working day. (71532)

The Rural Payment Agency's (RPA) Customer Service Centre (CSC) provides an inquiry response facility and, outside business hours, a recorded messaging service, referring customers to RPA's website. As such the CSC seeks to answer inquiries as they are made. A proportion of the inquiries that are answered require a follow up response from a CSC operator or a member of RPA's processing staff. Moreover, RPA provides an electronic ordering facility for those customers seeking to acquire an application form or other scheme literature.

RPA launched a CSC on 14 February 2005. This was done to streamline single payment scheme and customer registration telephone inquiries into the Agency through one route, to allow staff to concentrate on processing. More importantly, this system aims to ensure that customers receive consistent answers and that any more complex inquiries can be directed to specialist areas of the business to call the customer back.

The main call centre is based in Workington with facilities for calls to be diverted to staff at other RPA sites during periods of unusually high demand.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what IT contracts the Rural Payments Agency has with private businesses; what the cost of each is; and what assessment he has made of their value for money. (71539)

Details of expenditure on major IT contracts in the year 2005-06 were:

Major IT hardware/software contracts—£500,000

Contract (£)

Accenture

Applications software development, maintenance, support and operations

22.19 million

Computacenter (UK) Ltd.

Hardware and software

2.38 million

Sungard Sherwood Systems

Applications software development, maintenance, support and operations

4.38 million

IBM

IT infrastructure management and operations. Applications software development, maintenance, support and operations

15.49 million

Oracle Corporation UK Ltd.

Software licences and services

848,000

Xansa UK

Applications software development, maintenance and support

658,000

Other hardware/software contracts—under £500,000

(a) 17 suppliers with total expenditure 2005-06 of approximately £1.14 million.

(b) The suppliers were

Albany Software

Axios Systems Consultants

Banctec Ltd.

Business Objects UK Ltd.

Casewise Ltd.

Dell Computer Corporation

EMC Documentum Ltd.

Korec Ltd.

Memex Technology

Mercury Interactive

Novell UK

Officevision Ltd.

Quest Software (UK) Ltd.

Serena Software Europe Ltd.

Sun Microsystems Ltd.

Verisign UK Ltd.

Visualfiles Ltd.

Telecommunications contracts (voice/data/mobile and videoconference)

(a) Eight suppliers with total expenditure 2005-06 of approximately £2.63 million

(b) The suppliers were

BT

Cable and Wireless

Energis Communications

Grapevine Communications Ltd.

Internal Videocomms Ltd.

Orange

Siemens PLC

Vodafone Ltd.

IT consultancy contracts

Major contracts—over £500,000

£

Atos Consulting Ltd.

5.39 million

Hays IT

2.15 million

Methods Consulting Ltd.

8.11 million

PMR Group PLC

702,000

Xansa Recruitment

1.44 million

Other consultancy contracts

(a) Seven suppliers with total expenditure 2005-06 of approximately £1.42 million.

(b) The suppliers were

Gartner Group

IT Service and Support Consulting

Logica/CMG

PA Consulting Group

Parity Solutions Ltd.

Scisys Ltd.

Tribal Yale

To provide assurance on the effectiveness of controls, continuous improvement and value for money the RPA purchasing and contract management functions are subject to regular audit and value for money assessments.

The question relates to the “cost” of contracts. As there are several interpretations of this, and to give the best clarity and comparison, I have provided expenditure figures for 2005-06.

The scope of “IT contracts” is also open for interpretation. In addition to the contracts which include “tangible” IT goods and communications I have also included detail of the expenditure under the IT consultancy contracts, as the majority of work under these contracts is for IT or IS consultancy, or is IT project/programme related.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the backlog is of Rural Payments Agency cases for (a) single farm payments and (b) entry level scheme payments; what plans he has to reduce each backlog; and by what date the Rural Payments Agency will have cleared its backlog. (71540)

The information is as follows:

(a) By close of business on 23 May 2006, 93,710 single payment scheme claimants had received either a full or substantial partial payment. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is working hard to ensure that outstanding payments are made as quickly as possible.

(b) At 12 May, 93 per cent. of environmental stewardship payments due in the first three payment rounds (February-April) had been made, leaving 654 outstanding of a potential total of 9,097. The Rural Development Service, who administer the scheme, and RPA, who make the payments, are working hard to ensure that outstanding payments are made as quickly as possible.

The deadline for application under the single payment scheme in 2005 was 16 May. The regulatory payment window for the scheme is from 1 December- 30 June, but RPA announced in early 2005 that the most probable time frame for payments to begin being made was in February 2005. This target was met, as the first payments were issued on 20 February. Full payments were continuing to be made until 5 May, when it was announced that substantial partial payments were going to be made to a large number of farmers yet to receive a payment. These were made by 12 May with full payments and top up payments currently being made.

RPA is working hard to ensure that outstanding payments will be made as quickly as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what factors have contributed to the increases in the cost of running the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) since 2003-04; and what the original budget allocation was for the RPA at the beginning of (a) 2003-04 and (b) 2004-05. (73220)

The original running cost budget allocations for the Rural Payments Agency were:

£ million

2003-04

196.170

2004-05

193.161

These allocations did not include any funding for non-cash costs such as depreciation and the cost of capital, nor the Agency’s contribution to the corporate costs of its parent department, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

RPA running costs have increased as a result of additional responsibilities taken on by the Agency over the last three financial years. These include:

The merger with the British Cattle Movement Service;

Structural Funds;

National Fallen Stock Scheme;

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy including the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme.

In each of the years since 2003-04 the original budget allocations have been supplemented by additional funding provided by DEFRA, to cover these additional responsibilities. In particular, the Agency has reduced the number of permanent staff and introduced IT systems to make efficiency savings in the longer term.