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News : Rural Payments Agency Extends Call Centre Opening
May 9, 2014 -- With just seven days to go until the May 15 deadline for Single Payment Scheme (SPS) 2014 applications, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced extended opening hours for its call centre this weekend.
The agency has been experiencing intermittent problems with the SPS online service in recent weeks leading to calls from some industry figures to extend the deadline.
But the RPA said that was not possible.
Customer services director Justin Chamberlain said: "This is not something the RPA could take forward alone. It would need to be agreed first at a national, and then European level. This was never practical within the timescales we were working with. It would also involve potential extra costs to the taxpayer.
"We realise this has been a difficult and frustrating few weeks for those trying to make claims online and unreservedly apologise to our customers for the problems they have encountered.
"We have worked hard throughout to try to fix the issue and are heartened by the fact that to date nearly 49,000 claims have been made online.
"The system has been working normally for 48 hours and record numbers of applications have been made over the last couple of days but we continue to monitor the system carefully. We would urge customers to get online and get their claims done now."
All SPS applications, whether online or on paper, must reach the RPA by midnight on May 15 to avoid late application penalties.
Once the application has been sent, certain changes can be made online (or by writing to or emailing the agency). These must be received by midnight on June 2 to avoid penalties.
Applications and changes can be made until midnight on June 9, but penalties will be applied. Applications received after June 9 will not be accepted.
Farmers and agents with last-minute queries about their application will now be able to call the customer service centre between 9am to 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Rural Payments Agency:
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is an executive agency of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Published: Friday, May 9, 2014