As someone who, in the past, was ready to highlight the shortcomings of the Rural Payments Agency, I am pleased to note that it has mended its ways, evidently.
It is an agency that has turned the corner, delivering a vastly improved service to farmers and better value for money for taxpayers... according to its own chief executive, Mark Grimshaw.
While my first reaction to his speech to the NFU Council was that he would say that, wouldn't he, I read on to note the itemised progress made by the agency across its business, according to and highlighted by Mr Grimshaw.
In particular, his speech set out the agency's progress against its ambitious improvement programme – the Five Year Plan – published earlier this year. (An unfortunate name, perhaps, for those of us who remember Stalinist Russia).
"We have been busy implementing the first part of our ambitious improvement programme, putting in place the foundations that underpin improved service delivery and, ultimately, readiness for CAP reform," he said.
"There is much still to do and I by no means underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead. But we are, nevertheless, beginning to see and feel the impact of the comprehensive programme of improvement and a new, fitter RPA is beginning to take shape."
The agency's Five Year Plan includes a commitment to provide ("deliver" is techno-speak) 45 projects over the first three years.
They are designed to stabilise the agency and improve its performance. Thirty-six of these are already under way and nine of them have already been completed, evidently bringing benefits to the agency's customers.
He pointed to three specific projects already benefiting Single Farm Payment scheme customers.
Complex case working, designed to resolve outstanding issues, has led to 50%more of these cases being validated now, compared to this time last year.
And such has been the relationship built between the RPA and "intermediaries" who complete SFP scheme applications that there has been a 60% increase in the number being validated compared to last year.
In addition, the introduction of a 1% tolerance on changes found at physical inspection has cut down on work for both the agency and its customers, while maintaining the integrity of the Rural Land Register. So less jobsworth nit-picking.
Looking to the future, Mr Grimshaw said the agency would continue to rise to the challenge of producing a more confident and capable RPA, equipped with the skills and tools for providing an excellent service to its customers.
Well, if he can pull it off, more power to his elbow. As always, the proof of the pudding...
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