RPA announce SFP entitlement values

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced the values of entitlements for the three English regions under the 2014 Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

€ 251.39 for non-SDA (Severely Disadvantaged Areas)

€ 201.32 for upland SDA, other than moorland

€ 35.26 for upland SDA moorland

The exchange rate which will be applied is €1= £0.77730 (based on the value of the Euro as of 30 September 2014).

These figures will be used to calculate claimants 2014 SPS payments, with the payment window opening in December.

Ian Hewett from the RPA gave some good news as some customers will be due an additional payment due to unused funds from last years financial discipline deduction. Customers should see the additional payment of 3.1 %

see the full story here : https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rpa-announces-2014-sps-entitlement-values

Are you paying too much council tax?


Are you paying more council tax than you should be? Should you be challenging your council tax band in order to save yourself money?
The council tax bill is often one of the pieces of paper received through the post and filed immediately with regular payments on standing order or direct debit.
But many farmers may well be paying above their dues when it comes to council tax – because of the nature of farmhouses and the surrounding land.
If you have become the tax payer in the last six months it is worth challenging the band if you believe the property could be in the wrong one for any reason.
Those living in the countryside can have the value of their homes affected by a number of factors, including new roads and developments in the area, electricity pylons and phone masts.
Developments to the property also make a difference – if any part of the home has been demolished for any reason the changes may mean the home has dropped a band.
And it may be that these changes were made well before you moved in – or even that you are unaware of the changes that have been made – and the council tax band has never been challenged.
Homeowners who may be in this position, such as those who are in close proximity to recent big developments or relatively new phones masts or pylons, should challenge the band.
We always advise clients however that it is extremely important to remember that they must continue paying their council tax bill while this challenge takes place.
The band can be challenged by asking the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to check the valuation if you think it was valued incorrectly, or in certain circumstances you can make a formal challenge. The latter is the route taken if you are the new council taxpayer for the property and you disagree with the band.
The VOA can tell homeowners how their council tax band has been worked out and they can review the band if information is provided that suggests it is wrong.
A popular reason for homeowners to suspect the band is wrong is if similar homes nearby are in a different band, however this does not always apply to those living in rural areas where each property can be very different and affected by different external factors.
If they agree the band is wrong, they’ll put it right – and the service is free. The local council will then update the council tax bill.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you think you may be paying too much council tax and we can start the ball rolling.

Farmers should have their say on future of farms in the county.


We are urging Shropshire farmers to have their say on the consultation regarding the future of council-owned farms and smallholdings.
Shropshire Council is currently inviting the public’s opinion on what should be done with its 410-hectare agricultural estate, currently let out to many farmers taking their first steps into business.
One of the options is to sell the land on the open market, which we believe could put the future of the farms in jeopardy.
Another is for the council to maintain ownership – a costly measure at a time when savings must be made across the public sector.
The third option is for the estate to be transferred to a ‘preferred organisation’, which would maintain it and secure access to farming for future generations.
We feel it it vital that farmers in the county involve themselves in the consultation, which is taking place right now and until October 31st. We would urge our agricultural community here in Shropshire to make its views known to protect farming for future generations.
Council farms should be retained in some way and made available, as it is a vital route for new entrants to farming to gain a step on the business ladder.
Selling off the farms may generate income and, given ongoing repairs required on the farms, the budgets may stack up better but if that route is taken, it no longer offers what council-owned farms should be used to achieve.
Council-owned farms should be a way of giving aspiring farmers who do not have the family connections to take on or the capital to privately rent a holding a way into farming and a career in agriculture.
If they succeed on a council-owned farm, they then have the scope and opportunity to grow their business and move on to larger council holdings or even private farms, which makes good business management and sense.
It should be the council’s aim and policy to encourage this sort of behaviour, which is the view taken by other counties not too far away from here.
None of the three options are ‘ideal’ for farmers but option three – for the farming estate to be transferred to an organisation who would maintain it to secure farming for future generations – seems to offer the best compromise.
If the smallholdings are retained and the correct objectives and policy for renting them out is maintained by the new owner, then this will hopefully remain successful in encouraging new tenants into farming.
Keith Barrow, Leader of Shropshire Council, has said the consultation sets out a number of options available which have been drawn up after much deliberation.
He said they have sought to outline the options they are considering, and identify the key advantages, disadvantages and potential impact of each option.
They will consider the responses to the consultation and take its outcome into account before making a final decision.
A paper will then be presented to full council on December 18th, with a recommendation on the future direction of the estate.
The Shropshire Council Smallholdings consultation can be found here, where you can add your views to the proposals.

Think carefully when considering solar panels…


Farmers considering involvement in solar power schemes need to think carefully about the implications before signing up to an agreement.
New plans to ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food, meaning farmers will lose their right to claim subsidies for fields filled with solar panels, are not the only problems landowners face.
Farmers should also consider the implications solar panels may have on being able to achieve Agricultural Property Relief on the land for inheritance tax.
The latest changes have been made to ensure more farmland is dedicated to agriculture to help boost the food and farming industry and will come into effect from January 2015.
Farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the Common Agricultural Policy for that land.
Farmers and landowners should not sign up to an option agreement until they have consulted their land agent and accountant.
Before anything is signed it is extremely important that the overall tax implications are discussed and understood.
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said she is “committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze”.
She said that is the reason for the scrapping of farming subsidies for solar fields.
The reform follows other government measures designed to end support for solar farms in agricultural fields. The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently announced that renewable energy subsidies for new large-scale solar farms will end in April 2015.
This year, the Department for Communities and Local Government amended planning rules to ensure that whenever possible solar installations are not put in fields that could be used for farming.
The changes the government is making are expected to slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England. There are currently 250 installed, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares.

Find out more about how the new Common Agricultural Policy is being implemented in England.

Secluded land for sale in Codsall



A parcel of land in a secluded spot on the outskirts of Codsall is expected to attract plenty of interest.
We are marketing the land at Mill Lane, Codsall, which is ideal for agricultural or equestrian use.
The land is 3.52 acres (1.42 hectares), has a guide price of £45,000 and is pastureland with mature hedgerows and secure fencing.
We are expecting strong interest because it’s versatile land in an excellent location.
It would be ideal for use as pony paddocks as there is easy access on to quiet lanes and good footpaths and bridleways.
It is a nice secluded spot with boundaries of post and rail fencing and mature hedgerows.
There is also two accesses off Mill Lane, which allows easy access for vehicles using a private track.
Equestrian land is always popular, particularly in areas close to Wolverhampton and Codsall is a popular area for people looking for land suitable for equine use as it is in easy reach of Wolverhampton.
It is also quite close to Telford and other parts of east Shropshire, so land often gets snapped up quite quickly.
More information and details of the land can be found here.

Think carefully on double funding reply…



Farmers across the Midlands who have an Entry Level Scheme agreement are being asked to declare which route they want to take with regard to ‘double funding’ issues.
Letters from Natural England have been received by those with an ELS agreement with a start date of January 1st, 2012, or later setting out what they need to do to identify whether they are affected by double funding and if so, what choices are available to them.
Double funding is where you will technically be getting paid twice for the same piece of ground, for example if an individual uses an area of ground in their new BPS claim as a ‘Greening’ measure which is also available as an ELS option under their agreement.
However Natural England and DEFRA are taking a blanket approach, which means even if you did not use the option under your ELS agreement towards your BPS greening you will still have reductions made.
We would urge all of those who receive a letter to talk it through with a professional to weigh up which route forward is best for them and what to do next – this is not a decision that should be made hastily.
It is not a simple yes or no as it will have knock on effects to the whole business due to the reduced income on the ground. This all needs to be thought about and discussed before a decision is made and your letter is returned.
Natural England ask that the letters are returned by November 15th declaring which route you want to take and which of the three options you have decided on – end the agreement as of January 1st, 2015, amend the agreement to add further options such as increasing the area and reducing the reductions made, or carry on the agreement with the reduced payments.
The letter explains the reductions are based on the individual agreement. This means each agreements reductions will be different so there is no correct route – it must be what suits the agreement holder.
In cases there can be some serious reductions in payments depending on which options are present in the agreement so you need to ask for advice if you do not fully understand which route you should take.
Our team are currently working through letters with numerous clients and are on hand to help if you need it. Please get in touch on 01952 727007 or email enquiries@madeleys.co.uk

Incorrect bank details will delay payments – update now!


With 2014 Single Payment Scheme payments looming, does the Rural Payments Agency have your current bank details?
Every year there are farmers across the UK who have changed bank details but haven’t let the RPA know.
This delays your payment so if you have switched bank accounts, let the RPA know now to make sure you get paid on time.
On the subject of SPS payments, the European Central Bank recently set its last exchange rate for September and the one on which the payments will be made.
Unfortunately it is not the best news for farmers, with a fall of six pence compared to the same period last year.
This means that 2014 Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments will be paid at £0.77730 per €1.
With farmers having to make the decision as far back as May as to whether they received their payment in Pound Sterling or Euros and many of them choosing to have it in GBP, many farmers will have lost out this year compared to last, with the exchange rate the lowest since the recession hit at the end of 2007.
But things will change next year when the SPS is replaced with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
Instead of calculating payments based on the last exchange rate set in September, BPS payments will instead be worked out based on an average of the European Central Bank’s rate changes throughout the month.
But whether this will leave farmers better off or not remains to be seen.
In the here and now though, if you need to update your bank details with the RPA, you need to fill out an amendment form, which can be found here on the RPA area of www.gov.uk or by emailing csc@rpa.gsi.gov.uk.

You can also call the RPA’s customer service centre on 0345 603 7777.

Is your lease agreement tailored to meet your rural needs?


Income from assets on Shropshire farms – such as the lease of buildings or land – are often the lifeblood of many farming businesses.
But if the right information is not included in lease agreements for rural properties farmers may find themselves facing problems with tenants – and ultimately paying out thousands of pounds to rectify them.
Land and property leased to supplement income on county farms is not unusual in a rural area and it is a practice we often deal with.
Many farmers come to us when problems have arisen instead of consulting with us prior to agreeing a tenant lease – which results in costs to them that could have been avoided.
We go and visit the client because a lease needs to be tailored to rural properties. If it is done without a visit to the property then things can be missed and ultimately it results in high costs for the farmer/rural landlord – costs that could have been avoided.
Standard business tenancies often offer little protection to both the landlord and tenant because when challenged the terms contained within them can be interpreted differently.
In practical terms it is more sensible to agree express terms which are specific to the situation and make sure all matters are covered in ‘black and white’ in the lease so neither party is in doubt.
In a recent case we were contacted by a rural landlord experiencing difficulties with a converted stone barn he had leased in south Shropshire.
Exposed oak beams in the property were painted black by the tenant and the costs of work to remove the gloss paint from the timber beams was estimated at nearly half a years rent.
The lease in question was silent on various matters concerning repairs, improvements and dilapidations.
As well as the costs relating to the works involved in the removal of the paint – which is phenomenal – the kitchen had been left in a terrible state and a new fitted kitchen was required.
We managed to negotiate that a new kitchen will be put in by the tenant but if there are any further disagreements about how repairs and dilapidations are dealt with this case could well end up going to court. A costly exercise for both landlord and tenant.
There are certain parts of preparation for a lease that we consider essential and one of those is a record of condition, which records the state of the property before a tenant enters and photographic written evidence is signed off by the landlord and tenant to confirm that they both agree with the state and condition of the property at the commencement of the lease.
If a record of condition and precise lease terms had been included in this particular lease – to leave the beams as existing, unless the landlord has given written consent – a much stronger case could have been put forward to the outgoing tenant.
The best thing to do if you are considering leasing a building on agricultural land is to get in touch with us and let us assess it in its entirety before anything is drawn up and signed.
We are also happy to speak to farmers considering leasing out land or buildings who would like to find out more information about what is involved. Whether it is over the phone or you would like to pop into the office please feel free to get in touch.

Single Payment Scheme ready to disappear – are you ready for the CAP changes?


The end of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) is fast approaching and thousands of farmers across the country could find themselves losing out financially if they have not prepared in time.
If you are a smallholder with less than five hectares and/or five entitlements, you need to start planning now for the introduction of the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
By now, you should have received a letter from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) with all the information about the EU rule changes and what you need to do next.
With 18,000 farmers falling into this category, existing small claimants (those with five hectares or less) will no longer be able to claim and need to consider whether to dispose of their SPS payments now or wait until they are allocated their BPS entitlements, which will happen automatically on 1st January 2015 if you hold the relevant entitlements.
To get ahead of the game and dispose of your payments now, the paperwork needs to be with the RPA before 21st October 2014.
The message from Arik Dondi, external relations director for the RPA, could not be clearer – you need to act now.
“Anyone currently claiming SPS who has less than five hectares of land and/or five entitlements needs to be thinking now about decisions they must make and actions they might take around the 2015 BPS payment,” he said.
But to complicate things even further, small claimants also need to consider whether they will meet the ‘active farmer test’ in 2015.
The rules for this are complex and here at Madeleys we will be able to take you through them to assess whether you will be able to claim in 2015.
Another important thing to think about is that your entitlements match the land you farm at present. There is a real risk that if you have excess entitlements, you will lose them next year.
Madeleys Chartered Surveyors has three experts – Paul Madeley, Angela Cantrill and Chris Powell – to help guide you through the changes and make sure you know what you can claim and be prepared well in advance.
Feel free to contact us on 01952 727007, email enquiries@madeleys.co.uk or pop into the offices on High Street in Much Wenlock
More information about the CAP changes can be found here.