The transition to online Single Payment Scheme submissions has been going well ever since the first submission was made using our Single Payment Supervisor software back in 2008.
Unfortunately many users have been stopped in their tracks since Friday 11th April due to problems with the Government Gateway, a key component on which SPS Online relies. Initially not everyone was affected by this with most experiencing very slow and frustrating usage of SPS Online. By Wednesday 16th April SPS Online had gone down completely! Thankfully later that day the problems were being reported as resolved only for problems to rear there head again temporarily on Tuesday 22nd April.
For farmers with a single application to submit it could be argued that the downtime was not a big issue as there is still plenty of time to make submissions (Until 15th May). However this doesn’t account for land agents who make many applications (land agents submit nearly 4,000 applications from our Single Payment Supervisor software alone) and often have only just enough time to complete all the submissions (made worse this year by the preparations for the new Basic Payment Scheme and FFIS applications). The six days of barely being able to use SPS Online is a major setback that some land agents will struggle to overcome (Unless you were using our Single Payment Supervisor software which allows you to complete your application offline and submit it when everything is working correctly).
Many land agents have enquired about an extension to the deadline but indications from RPA is this can/will not happen. Once again RPA are guilty of not fully understanding the importance of land agents. In the past some cynics have suggested RPA don’t like land agents as it reduces the fines and penalties they can administer. This is not an opinion we agree with, believing RPA to be an honest if at times frustrating agency.
Our advice is to make sure you get a best effort application submitted by midnight 15th May and then make any required alterations before midnight the penalty free amendment deadline on 2nd June. Make sure have read and understood the SPS handbook and any relevant documents relating to the submission deadlines.
Hopefully no problems with occur.