Further flooding has still not moved the government to act, says Helene Dancer
The big insurer in the sky is trying to tell us something. The government's announcement of an insubstantial increase in flood spending has been greeted by some serious flooding.
Isn't it time, after weeks of horrendous flooding, that the government stops tripping over saturated red tape and actually takes the issue seriously? The ABI called for an increase in investment of £435m by 2005/2006. The government is providing only £150m by the end of 2006 and the benefits will really kick in only then.
A leading researcher last week berated the government's procrastination and suggested there would be more disastrous flooding this autumn if under-investment in flood defences and poor planning continued. And insurers are not seeing any immediate plans for progress on the ground. Others are confounded by common sense, because better defences could help to prevent disaster.
The government is responding with a stark lack of urgency. Proactive voices within government and in the insurance industry are not being heard. One insurer suggested that, perhaps, this is because government has become comfortable with the flood moratorium, which means insurers don't have to foot any flood claims until the end of this year.
The ABI initially agreed to the two-year moratorium, provided the government agreed to certain requests. These were that the government streamlined flood defence management, improved planning regulation in flood-prone areas and increased flood defence spending. The government wants the moratorium to be extended and is banking on insurers' patience, saying that it has agreed these requests.
Industry sentiment suggests the government has scraped through with the bare minimum. Enough of the spin, they say. The private sector cannot continue to bail you out.