Insurers welcome government response to Pitt’s demands

Environment secretary Hilary Benn has announced a new £7.7m flood forecasting centre run by the Met Office and Environment Agency in response to Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the 2007 summer floods.

He said it would improve the country’s ability to predict and respond to flooding by providing a single national forecasting and alert service.

The Pitt review recommended a better warning system.

Benn said: “In a flood, preparation and speed of response are crucial. A joint national flood forecasting and alert service will help by providing timely warnings and ensure we get the right help to the people who need it most in the shortest possible time.”

Mr Benn also announced funding to help local authorities co-ordinate and lead flood management locally; to help people to protect their homes through installing flood protection measures; and to improve water rescue. Local Resilience Forums will also be funded to prepare emergency plans in case of reservoir dam failure, and the Environment Agency will receive extra funding in its new role as the organisation with overall responsibility for flooding.

ABI response

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health, said: “We are pleased that the Government is acting on all of the recommendations in the Pitt Review. The devastating floods of 2007 exposed that the piecemeal approach to flood management needed a radical and rapid overhaul.

“Following discussions with the ABI earlier this year, the Government pledged to develop a much needed long-term flood strategy. This must focus on streamlined accountability, a reassessment of the flood risk from rivers, sea, and surface water, better information to those at risk, and adequate new investment. The draft Floods and Water Bill needs to be published as soon as possible, and deliver a framework to ensure this happens.

“Millions of homeowners and businesses rely on flood insurance. Insurers are committed to ensuring that flood cover remains widely available. We stand ready to work with Government to ensure that we implement a national flood management strategy that reflects the future flood risk.”

Water industry response

Pamela Taylor, Water UK’s chief executive said: "The industry has been proactive in addressing the lessons learned from last summer’s flooding incidents. As a matter of priority companies have moved to carry out a complete review of emergency procedures, including the volumes of water required during a major supply interruption, the manner in which companies provide mutual aid during large incidents and the interaction between companies and consumers in such events.

"The industry has also addressed where capital investment may be needed to protect critical assets from flooding and to continue to reduce the number of properties at risk of flooding due to the overloading of sewer capacity and incorporated these into their business plan submissions."

Scotland deal

In a separate move the ABI and the Scottish Government agreed a deal to manage the flood threat in Scotland.

Under the agreement, the ABI and the Scottish Government will work together on measures to manage and reduce the growing flood threat. This includes the Scottish Government developing a long-term flood strategy, and carrying out a detailed assessment of the flood risk in Scotland, from rivers, the sea and surface water.

Implementing these measures will ensure that flood insurance remains widely available and competitively priced where the flood risk is adequately managed for existing Scottish policyholders over the next five years, under an industry agreement among ABI members. After 2013 implementation of these measures should mean this agreement is no longer needed.

Justin Jacobs, the ABI’s assistant director of property, said: “Today’s agreement is good news for Scottish customers. The Scottish Government rightly recognises that a long-term flood strategy, backed by adequate resources and funding, is the best way to manage the growing flood threat. We look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that these measures are implemented so that flood protection relied upon by homeowners and businesses remains widely available.”

The Scottish environment minister, Michael Russell, said: “This historic agreement - the first of its kind between the ABI and the Scottish Government – enables households and small businesses to plan for and minimise the financial costs of flooding.”