Environmental Stewardship Scheme

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 21st February 2019.

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Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what additional (a) funding and (b) staff resource has been provided to the Rural Payments Agency to deliver Countryside Stewardship payments; and whether his Department plans to provide any additional resources.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department plans to provide additional resources to the Rural Payments Agency to improve the IT system required to deliver Countryside Stewardship payments.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to improve farmer confidence in the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) took on the administration of Countryside Stewardship from Natural England in October 2018, along with identified operational resources. Using customer feedback to improve the application process, Defra is supporting the RPA’s efforts to simplify the administration and speed up processing of the scheme as far as possible under the current EU system by streamlining processes and improving IT.

Having all Common Agricultural Policy schemes under one agency offers a more joined up approach and improves service, such as by having one point of contact.

The RPA is already beginning to deliver much needed changes, such as technical updates to systems and improving internal processes. We are offering more ways to apply online, providing clearer guidance and reducing the evidence burden on applicants.

We have also committed to making annual revenue payments to 95% of 2018 Countryside Stewardship customers by March 31, and will be making bridging payments in early April so no eligible recipient will wait beyond early April to receive a payment.

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