Last month was windiest in 20 years

Nearly 2,000 buildings have been flooded since storms began on 23 December, according to government figures.

About 1,700 properties have been flooded in England so far, with a further 140 in Wales.

About 750,000 properties were left without an electricity supply, with 10% waiting more than a day for power to be restored.

According to the Met Office, December 2013 was the windiest month since January 1993, and the sixth wettest December on record.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson said more than 220,000 properties were protected from flooding over the Christmas period, in addition to more than 800,000 protected from coastal flooding in early December.

“Some 147,000 homes and businesses have received flood warnings and advice since the beginning of December, enabling both individuals and organisations to take effective action before the storms struck,” Paterson said.

Storm damage

GAB Robins said 55% of the claims work it received from the storms on 5-9 December was for flood damage and 45% for storm damage.

But only 34% of the claims from the storms that began on 23 December have been for flood damage, with 66% from storm damage, said head of business development Ian Sutcliffe.

Flood claims for December are six times more expensive than storm claims, as floods usually damage the entire ground floor of a building and claims are likely to include additional costs for alternative accommodation.

Many of the flood claims have been from tidal surges, which cost 25% more to repair than river flood damage because of the extra work of washing away the salt that can corrode electrical appliances.

The loss adjustor and claims handling firm has had the highest number of flood claims from Tonbridge, Kent, while the RH postcode area, spanning parts of Surrey and Sussex, has produced the most storm claims.

Spending row

The government has committed to spending £370m in real terms on new flood defences each year from 2015 until 2020. Paterson said the new projects would reduce the risk of flooding to a further 300,000 households, on top of the 165,000 households already protected.

It has also committed to maintain flood risk management spending in cash terms despite a 10% reduction to Defra’s budget.

But 1,500 jobs are to be axed from the Environment Agency as part of the £300m cuts to Defra over the next two years.

Environment committee chairman Anne McIntosh said: “Ministers must clarify how further budget cuts over £300m over the next two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the department to respond to emergencies.”

“Recent flooding events over the Christmas and New Year period reinforce the committee’s concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised.”