National Flood Risk Awareness Week: time to reflect on spending cuts

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November marks the 10th anniversary of the autumn floods in 2000 – the wettest period to hit the UK and much of mainland Europe since records began. Flooding still threatens many homes and businesses across the UK, with the most recent flooding hitting Cumbria in 2009.

This week is National Flood Risk Awareness Week. It’s a chance to take stock of past events, consider the latest government spending review and support the ongoing campaigning on behalf of flood victims.

The aim of this week is to raise awareness of flood risk to homeowners and businesses up and down the country. By educating and informing the public, it’s hoped that people will not only become aware of the risks but also how to mitigate them.

The ABI (Association of British Insurers) recently expressed its disappointment over the recent spending cuts on flood defences. Although the government has recognised the importance of a continued investment, flood defences will not be maintained at the current level by the coalition government. Only £2 billion has been allocated by the coalition government for flood defence investment over the four years from 2011 to 2015, compared with £2.15 billion by the previous government over the three years from 2008 to 2011.

ABI’s Nick Starling said recently,

We urgently need a long-term plan to tackle the rising flood risk this country faces over the next 25 years, especially as the Statement of Principles on Flood Insurance comes to an end in 2013’

The Statement of Principles refers to the commitment (by the ABI and the government) to ensure that the risk from flooding is managed appropriately and that flood insurance remains as affordable and widely available as possible.

In addition, The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has expressed concern over the cuts, warning that the impact of reduced public funding for flood defences will demand a more innovative approach to managing flood risk.

Director of AA Insurance, Simon Douglas, also commented on the latest spending review:

My greatest fear is that inadequate spending on defence will affect home insurance premiums and could leave thousands of homes uninsurable and thus un-mortgageable.’

Over 5 million people in England and Wales live and work in flood risk areas and it’s a continued threat to their property and possessions. In 2009, over 1,300 homes and businesses were hit by the floods. According to figures released by the ABI, the cost of the damage caused by the Cumbrian floods was over £200 million and insurers handled 36,000 flood and storm damage claims from customers in the aftermath.

All property owners in high flood risk areas should make sure they have adequate home insurance in place – although they are likely to pay higher premiums for their cover. Some insurers may refuse to cover a property with flood risk, so it may be advisable to seek out a specialist high-risk provider.

To find out more about the ‘Know Your Flood Risk’ campaign, visit the Know Your Flood Risk site

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.