Countryside Stewardship administration moving to the Rural Payments Agency

Statement from Natural England:

It has been announced that the Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) delivery work is moving from Natural England (NE) to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

In September, NE’s Senior Leadership Team decided to create CS hubs at 5 locations, to focus expertise in CS processing and process improvements. The CS hubs are at Crewe, Newcastle, Nottingham, Worcester and Reading.

Since establishing the hubs, senior leaders in Defra group and the ministerial team have been looking at ways to further improve our customers’ experience. Senior Defra leaders have agreed with NE’s Senior Leadership Team that CS work should transfer to the RPA.

Centralising scheme delivery under the accredited Paying Agency for England that manages the Rural Payments System will be more joined up for our staff and customers. Natural England and the RPA will work together to provide advice on the schemes to customers, and NE will continue to provide ecological advice on the ground.

There is more to do to stabilise CS but, working more closely with RPA, there has been significant progress in laying sound operational foundations and scheme/ IT system simplification plans which will deliver improvements over the coming months and years. We must now continue to deliver change and improvements jointly as effectively and quickly as possible.

Senior leaders have also agreed with a further recommendation to move ES delivery to the RPA. ES schemes are closed to new entrants but many agreements remain live.

We expect demand for the new, simplified CS packages to increase significantly over the next few years. So there is now a greater need to keep the skilled ES people alongside the CS work so they can be easily reassigned as the number of ES agreements declines and the demand for people to work on CS increases.

Why is the work moving?

CS and ES delivery work is moving to the RPA because:

  • Administration of land management schemes and payments by one organisation will provide more joined-up services for staff and customers.
  • It allows both agencies to continue to work together whilst concentrating on where they can best add value through their respective expertise. This will help deliver the ambition set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.
  • We can be more flexible in managing resources across all CAP Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 activities, giving people more variety of work and more flexible careers paths.
  • The move will bring control of disallowance risk into the Paying Agency.

What and who will be moving and when?

The details of exactly what work will transfer and when will take some time to develop further. The shift of the work will entail transferring Natural England staff currently working on CS and ES delivery and supporting functions to the RPA under a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment) transfer.

The Regulations are part of UK law and they are designed to safeguard employees’ employment rights when the work that they do moves to a new employer.