Farmers must now submit their Basic Payment Scheme claims on paper forms after the originally ‘online only’ service had to be abandoned after “performance problems.”
The £154m website, which is used to process EU subsidy payments for farmers in England, has reportedly been causing trouble for farmers who have been unable to use the system for months.
Chief executive of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Mark Grimshaw told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme that the decision to scrap the online programme after “having listened intently” to farmers.
Grimshaw claimed the new and existing forms processes will be “blended” to “ensure that everyone who wants to make a claim this year can do so.”
According to Defra, the online registration process will remain and the RPA will then input the data onto the system.
However, what has been described as the most problematic element of the system, a digital “mapping tool” has been replaced with paper maps and forms.
Assistance for farmers and their agents will be able to receive assistance at 50 digital support centres in England which are currently acting as drop-in centres.
“Our patience is worn really thin now and if we think that they’ve launched this again half baked, not ready to go, without proper back-up we will be complaining in the strongest terms,” claimed Guy Smith of the National Farmers Union, also on the BBC programme.
Smith’s sentiments are backed up digital performance experts who are also shocked that the project has failed.
“It is actually quite hard to believe that after plunging £154m of tax payer money into this project, Defra is now looking to reverse back to using paper forms,” claimed Michael Allen, VP EMEA at Dynatrace, an application performance management firm.
“It isn’t the first time that IT performance issues darkened Defra’s door: in 2005 another IT fiasco ended up costing the Department £350m.
“How has this been allowed to happen? It is sad to see all this money go to waste; this is why performance testing and optimisation needs to be baked into applications right from the start.
“Any organisation needs total visibility of the application delivery chain, so that they can identify the root cause of problems faster and troubleshoot,” he added.