10,000 jobs may go as BPS phases-out, Labour warns

Thousands of agricultural jobs could disappear as the government phases out BPS, Labour warns
Thousands of agricultural jobs could disappear as the government phases out BPS, Labour warns

Nearly 10,000 agricultural jobs could be lost as a result of the government's 'rushed withdrawal' of the BPS payments, the Labour Party claims.

New data released by the party shows that rural England is projected to lose more than £255 million this year alone as a result.

Labour, which recently set out of its ambition to be 'the party of the British countryside', says this will 'push family farms to the brink of closure'.

Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) direct payments will be phased out over the period 2021-2027, Defra announced last year.

The reduction will be between 5% and 25% depending on current BPS income for 2021, with further 15% reductions across the board each year from 2022 to 2024.

But Labour says its analysis, based on figures from the Rural Payments Agency, lays bare the scale of impact on rural economies by what it says is the government’s ‘reckless approach’ to the scheme.

This 'rushed withdrawal' of direct payments could 'risk as many as 9,500 agricultural jobs', the party suggests.

The new environmental land management payment schemes – intended to replace the current Basic Payments Scheme – are still being designed, tested and piloted.

There are currently no plans for replacement payments being available until 2022/23 at the earliest.

Labour, which supports the principle of reforming farm payments, has joined with the NFU in calling for an urgent review of this policy.

Shadow Defra Secretary Luke Pollard said it was 'extraordinary' to take a quarter of a billion pounds out of the rural economy this year alone.

“The government needs to get a grip on this, review it, and provide the security that our rural communities desperately need as they recover and rebuild," he added.

“Labour’s Rural England Policy Review will ensure that our next manifesto provides as much hope and opportunity to rural communities as it does to those living in towns and cities.”

It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer launched the party's Rural England Policy Review at this year's NFU Conference.

“No party can claim to represent the country if we don’t represent the countryside," he said at the event.

"Farming matters, to Labour, to the British people, and to the families and communities that make farming possible.

In the 2019 general election, previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held onto just seventeen rural or semi-rural seats.