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Insurers call for action on flood defences


Insurance companies are calling on the government to take action on the UK's flood defences.

This summer saw parts of England and Wales suffer from torrential rain that caused rivers to burst their banks and flood large swathes of the country. Hull, Sheffield and Doncaster were some of the worst affected regions, with many people forced out of their homes by the rising water levels.

The overall cost of the flooding has not been finally determined, although it is believed to be many billions, with the July floods alone estimated by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to be costing £2.5 billion. Such costs demonstrate the growing importance of developing effective flood defences, especially as experts predict that the UK's weather is going to become increasingly volatile in the years ahead due to climate change.

At present the government spends £570 million per year on improving and building flood defences across the country and ministers have promised that this funding will be increased to £800 million by 2011. Although the government has recognised the need to improve flood defences, the ABI believes that this is not happening quickly enough and has called on the authorities to minimise the risk of flooding as quickly as possible.

According to the ABI, the industry has dealt with over 130,000 claims related to damage caused to homes, vehicles and businesses by this summer's flooding. Commenting on the efforts of insurers to deal with people's problems in the wake of the flooding, ABI director general Stephen Haddrill said: "The insurance industry is doing everything possible to help."

However, Mr Haddrill added that the vast numbers of people making claims in the wake of the floods means that it will be well into 2008 before the industry has completed dealing with all cases. With winter potentially bringing more bad weather and claims, the insurance industry could therefore soon be facing a backlog from which it will struggle to get out of.

Therefore, the ABI is calling on the government to redouble its efforts on repairing and maintaining flood defences. Speaking after meeting with ministers to discuss the flooding, Mr Haddrill said: "We pressed the government to act quickly to reduce the level of flood risk, whether associated with river, coastal or surface flooding. We urged ministers to bring forward the planned increased spending on flood defences and flood management."