In another, MAFF accepted that there had been an injustice and agreed to pay part of the disputed claim plus interest totalling £903 the Ombudsman was accordingly able to conclude the case without a statutory investigation. Mr D complained that MAFF had rejected the partnership’s 1997 claim even though they had applied as a sole producer in accordance with previous practice and their interpretation of MAFF’s guidance.
The Ombudsman found no fault with MAFF’s handling of the partnership’s claims between 1984 and 1995 and he was satisfied that since 1992 MAFF’s guidance had explained clearly that partnerships should apply as a producer group. However, he criticised MAFF for shortcomings in their handling of the partnership’s 1996 and 1997 claims. He found that the 1996 claim should have failed the initial validity check and that MAN should therefore have returned the claim to the partnership. Had they done so, the partnership could have remedied the situation for 1997. After discussion MAFF agreed to compensate the partnership for 1997 premium foregone, plus interest.
They also agreed to Building Inspection Cost reimburse interest they had required the partnership to pay when recovering the 1997 first advance payment. MAFF have also accepted fault in several other cases without the need for the Ombudsman to launch a statutory investigation. In one case, where responsibility for dairy hygiene inspections had transferred from MAF to the newly established independent Food Standards Agency, there was a similar constructive response to our approach.
The farmer complained that MAFF had failed to process his payments made in relation to dairy hygiene inspections correctly, and wrongly taken him to court for alleged non-payment, causing him to incur costs, and suffer a loss of credit status and damage to his reputation and character. Without further investigation on the Ombudsman’s part, the Food Standards Agency offered a full apology, increased the sum offered for botheration. The Ombudsman does not always find MAFF to be at fault. Two such cases concerned the evidence required to support a claim for payment under the Arable Area Aid Scheme.