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Watchdog reveals farm cash blunder

North Shropshire | News | Published:

Farms in Shropshire and Mid Wales were overpaid more than £50,000 during the chaos surrounding the payment of European Union subsidies in 2006, watchdog MPs revealed today. Farms in Shropshire and Mid Wales were overpaid more than £50,000 during the chaos surrounding the payment of European Union subsidies in 2006, watchdog MPs revealed today. Many payments were late, bringing some farms to the edge of bankruptcy, but failures at the Government's Rural Payments Agency also saw overpayments to farmers totalling £37 million during 2005 and 2006. The agency's failings could lead to British taxpayers being forced to pick up a bill for hundreds of millions of pounds in EU fines or see cuts in the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs budget. Nearly 20,000 farmers' entitlements were calculated wrongly, and individual farmers who were overpaid have yet to be told how much they owe and when they must pay back the money, according to a report by the Commons public accounts committee. Read the full story in today's Shropshire Star 

Farms in Shropshire and Mid Wales were overpaid more than £50,000 during the chaos surrounding the payment of European Union subsidies in 2006, watchdog MPs revealed today.Many payments were late, bringing some farms to the edge of bankruptcy, but failures at the Government's Rural Payments Agency also saw overpayments to farmers totalling £37 million during 2005 and 2006.

The agency's failings could lead to British taxpayers being forced to pick up a bill for hundreds of millions of pounds in EU fines or see cuts in the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs budget.

Nearly 20,000 farmers' entitlements were calculated wrongly, and individual farmers who were overpaid have yet to be told how much they owe and when they must pay back the money, according to a report by the Commons public accounts committee.

One of the 19 overpayments of more than £50,000 went to AJ Beavan & Partners, of Black Hall, Knighton, and another went to RE & RM Beedles, of Middle Shadymoor Farm, Dorrington, Shropshire.

Earlier this month, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn revealed that 700 farmers had still not received their subsidy for 2007.

The watchdog MPs said that the payments agency had only started its investigations into excess payments under the 2005 scheme in November last year, and "little action" had been taken to recover the money.

As a result, there was a risk that farmers might have unknowingly spent the money in the meantime.

Tory MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: "The agency's failings in implementing the scheme might lead the European Commission to fine the Government hundreds of millions of pounds."

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Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, a member of the committee, said the Rural Payments Agency was continuing to plague farmers with implementation of the single payments scheme.

"While most farmers are being paid earlier than they were in 2005, too many errors persist. Nearly 20,000 farmers' entitlements under the 2005 and 2006 schemes, were calculated incorrectly.

"Individual farmers who were overpaid have yet to be told by how much and when repayment will be required, adding to uncertainty for many," said the Tory MP.

By London Editor John Hipwood

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