West Midlands farmers have called on Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to resign over the Single Payment Scheme fiasco.

The regional board has voted to approve a resolution to NFU Council, the organisation's national ruling body, for Mrs Beckett to be replaced.

The Single Payment Scheme, which provides support payments to farmers for the environmental work they carry out, has descended into chaos with 70 per cent of claimants still unpaid.

The situation has already resulted in the chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, Johnston McNeill, being replaced and now West Midlands farmers feel its time for Mrs Beckett to go.

Yesterday it also emerged that staff manning the Rural Payments Agency's helpline will not have access to the Single Payment Scheme database for much of the week.

The agency said that the database will be unavailable if farmers call the customer service centre from 6pm today to 6am April 18.

An RPA spokesman claimed that work to tackle the SPS claim backlog would continue while the system was off-line. But the NFU has suggested that with 62,000 claims still in the validation pipeline, the shutdown will not help.

Simon Latter, NFU West Midlands regional board chairman, said: "The situation is a complete disgrace. There is no excuse for this and ultimately the buck must stop at the door of the Secretary of State responsible and we believe that the Government should act to remove Mrs Beckett as soon as possible."