Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

At Best, This Is Tiny Shaft of Grey in Very Black Cloud

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

At Best, This Is Tiny Shaft of Grey in Very Black Cloud

Article excerpt

Byline: By Hume Hargreave

Faced with the debacle at the Rural Payments Agency, UK farmers can be forgiven for envying their French competitors. France took advantage of an EU dispensation and deferred the introduction of the Single Payment scheme for 12 months.

The benefits of deferral are clear. Some 500,000 French farmers received their application forms before Christmas, for return by March.

Regional agricultural departments have conducted 95,000 interviews to help them complete their forms correctly.

The first payments will be made at the earliest possible date, December 1. One consequence of the English decision to go for the "dynamic hybrid" mix of past entitlement and regional average, and at the earliest time permitted, has been to put huge pressure on those responsible for RPA IT systems.

The commercial IT market cannot often provide a government department with an off-the-peg solution, so a bespoke system has to be created. Spectacular failures, such as the Child Support Agency's system and the Department of Health's Patient Choice system, show how difficult it is to get it right.

How the RPA's IT planners must have wished either that the UK had followed the French and deferred the SP scheme for a year, or that Parliament had at least followed the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly's decisions to allocate on the basis of past entitlement only. …

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