Sunday, 20 May 2012

'Flood RE' - will it help areas at risk of flooding?

Armitage Bridge Flood 2008
If you want to know whether or not Climate Change is real and getting worse don't listen to Friends of the Earth, don't listen to the Campaign against Climate Change and whatever you do don't listen to the Green Party! You want to go the people who really know, none other than the Association of British Insurers. As representatives of the insurance industry the ABI have a vested interest in assessing the risk and likelyhood of flooding events and understanding what action has been taken to mitigate those risks. As we all should know changing weather patterns are upon us. We have longer, heavier rain events, flash flooding and the consequential damage to property.  This has had a real impact on Armitage Bridge in the ward I represent as a Kirklees Councillor but hopefully measures the Council has put in place and action taken by local people will limit the risk of flooding in future. So far so good!

For  a number of years now there has been an agreement, called the 'Statement of Principles' between the Government and the ABI which has ensured that many homes at risk of flooding have received reasonable levels of insurance. This agreement runs out next year but households are already seeing the consequences of this as the cost of  their renewal premiums drops through their letterbox. One householder in Runnymede was quoted £10,000 for their home insurance due to flood risk. So what can be done to address this problem? In the short term we need to do all we can to reduce the impact of flood and heavy rain events though strategically placed resevoirs, sustainable urban drainage systems and putting measures in place which reduce damage to homes at risk of flooding through flood secure doors and higher electrical sockets. It almost goes without saying that we need to take ongoing urgent action to reduce our carbon emissions but the issue of insuring homes remains.

Last week, as Chair of the Local Government Associations Inland Flood Risk Working Group I facilitated a meeting last week between DEFRA, the Association of British Insurers and Councillors from around the country who had been badly affected by flood events. The ABI's proposal to government is called 'Flood RE' where government will underwrite the cost of insurance for major flood events. It is estimated that the cost to government could be around £100- £200 million per annum. It is based on a similar agreement between Government and the ABI called ' Pool RE'. 'Pool RE' is nothing to do with pools of water, or Religious Education come to that, but is how the government helps the insurance industry insure property against the risks of terrorism events. Basically Flood RE is a guarantee by government that they will step in if flood events occur and help with cost. I've asked to see the details of 'ABI's 'Flood RE' proposal so the the Local Government Association can comment and if happy with it lend its support to the document.It seems a good principle for government to 'underwrite' the risk to the people they represent who find themselves in dire unaffordable circumstances due to no fault of their own. DEFRA is due to report back in 'Spring' this year. Admittedly I don't feel Spring has really sprung yet but we should know something shortly I guess.

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