A damning report on Wales’ Rural Development Programme (RDP) by Audit Wales has highlighted long-standing concerns raised repeatedly by farming unions.

The report, 'Ensuring value for money from rural development grants made without competition, says key aspects of the design, operation and oversight of the Welsh Government’s Rural Development fund were not effective enough to ensure £53million of grant awards would deliver value for money.

It showed the Welsh Government had adopted an approach of granting funds without competition and, in some cases, without taking any alternative steps to ensure the projects would deliver value for money.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “Welsh farmers pay the highest percentage of money possible into the RDP pot through a process called pillar transfer, totalling around £40 million a year, whereas in most EU countries and regions farmers pay a tiny fraction of this figure.

“When it was announced in 2013 that Wales would have the maximum 15 per cent pillar transfer rate – the highest in the EU – we were promised an RDP that would in return deliver transformational change for our industry.

“Having since paid in a total of around £230million, our industry deserved far better from the RDP, and the concerns that we had raised repeatedly since 2013 over the RDP should have been acted on sooner.”

Among these was that the decision in 2013 to scrap a dedicated RDP monitoring committee and bring its work within a massive single EU programme monitoring committee would undermine the scrutiny and monitoring of the RDP.

Similar concerns were raised in a Wales Audit Office report in 2018, which recommended that scrutiny arrangements for the management and delivery of the RDP be improved and that risk management arrangements for the RDP be clarified and documented.

NFU Cymru has again called for a full independent review of the programme in Wales following the report.

NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “The WAO report is the latest in a long line of concerns that we have held around the governance and implementation of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) in Wales.

“The latest report from WAO reinforces our view that Welsh farmers have been placed at a competitive disadvantage as a result of the Pillar Transfer decision through Welsh Government’s failure to implement an effective RDP programme for farmers, the slow rate of spend and now, we see, through not taking adequate steps to ensure value for money."