Ulster Unionist agriculture spokesperson, Harold McKee MLA, has urged Michelle McIlveen to use her final six weeks in office before March’s election to clear the backlog of Basic Payment appeals in her department.
On Wednesday this week the Minister informed Mr McKee that there are still 493 Stage 1 Review of Decision appeals outstanding from 2015.
Mr McKee said:“Six weeks ago the Minister told me that there were 645 Basic Payment appeals outstanding. In January I then asked again for the updated figures and the Minister told me there are 493 still outstanding. At the rate the Department are processing the appeals, it will ridiculously take another five months to clear the backlog.
“I find it totally unacceptable that despite 2016’s payments being issued, there are almost 500 farmers who are still waiting on their payment from the year before.
“Unfortunately however, following the spectacle at Stormont, Northern Ireland now faces an expensive election and the functions of government are set to be delayed further.
“I would urge the Minister to use the period between now and when she leaves office on 1st March to really get on top of these appeals. If no Executive can be formed after the election, Northern Ireland’s farmers will face a prolonged period of stalemate and the likelihood of a Direct Rule Minister prioritising Basic Appeals would fit in somewhere between zero and none.”