Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

50 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will allocate additional staff to the area aid unit in order that queries will be answered more efficiently. [19855/98]

Michael Ring

Question:

51 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the reorganisation of the area aid section as announced on 26 May 1998 has not worked in view of the fact that, as of 13 October 1998, telephone callers are connected to an answering machine similar to before the reorganisation. [19856/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 51 together.

I am satisfied that the reorganisation of the area aid unit has resulted in significant progress being made in improving service delivery by the unit this year. The temporary suspension of the telephone service is due to the volume of calls arising from the unprecedented high level of early headage payments made to date.

Within the overall staff resources available to my Department the area aid unit has been an area to which I have attached particular priority given its critical importance in ensuring that the maximum number of payments are made at the earliest possible date. I am keeping the staffing situation and allocation of other resources under review and can assure the Deputy that wherever possible, my Department will redeploy resources to the area aid unit to meet the needs of the farming community.