Belfast Telegraph

Stormont 'regrets' £5m payment to farmers

By Michelle Weir

Overpayments to farmers amounting to £5million will not happen again, a Stormont department has pledged.

The money was paid out in error to more than 11,000 farms between 2007 and 2013.

The Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowance Scheme was used to support farmers with poorer land, such as hill farms.

It paid a top-up based on the amount of land and a premium for keeping cattle on the land.

According to the BBC, in one instance, the overpayment was more than £70,000. In half the cases, payments were as low as £50. Forty farmers are believed to have received as much as £10,000.

The Department of Agriculture said it "regrets" the mistake but new procedures mean it "won't happen again".

It is understood that officials could not recover the cash because their IT system was not set up for this function.

Aerial maps on which payments were based were not thought to be sufficiently detailed.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said he does not understand how a £70,000 overpayment could be written off.

The department said it would not be "cost effective" to recover payments and a new mapping system has been introduced.

Belfast Telegraph

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