News & views

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Following the devastating floods that struck parts of the UK last year, we look at what plans are being put in place to protect homes and businesses in the future, and ask if they will be enough.

In December 2015, floods caused by unprecedented levels of rainfall during storms Desmond, Eva and Frank devastated many parts of the country.

Both homes and businesses were ruined by the extreme weather, with the hardest-hit areas found in northern England and the Scottish Borders. Hundreds of soldiers were sent in to help deal with the destruction and support rescue efforts.

While the cost of the damage was still being weighed up into the early part of this year, the Association of British Insurers [TR1] (ABI) predicted its members could have to pay out around £1.3bn in claims.


Strengthening defences
It was to reduce the likelihood of such costly damage being inflicted again that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced [TR2] it was to earmark £12.5 million in September this year for temporary flood defences.

To be built at seven strategic locations around the country, it was predicted that there would be four times more of these barriers and high-volume pumps by this winter than there are at present.

In a further strand of this National Flood Resilience Review, utility companies made a pledge to increase protection of vital assets such as phone networks, while new tests were introduced to help assessments of flood risk. 

It is all on top of a £2.5bn fund that has already been set aside to secure the country’s flood and coastal defences, as well as £1bn to be spent on maintaining existing infrastructure.

Commenting on the moves, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the review set out clear action to better-prepare the country for extreme floods. And on the whole there was widespread agreement from groups across the UK.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses[TR3] , nearly a fifth of firms are still not fully operational after the floods at the end of last year. Mike Cherry, the organisation’s national chairman, said the critical investment would surely help to protect against direct flood damage in the future, as well as against disruption to customers, staff and supply chains.


A short-term approach?
However, concerns have also been raised that the steps outlined in the National Flood Resilience Review may not go far enough. With the funding only due to last until 2021, there were fears in many quarters that the measures may be too short-term.

James Dalton[TR4] , the ABI’s director of general insurance policy, was one of those who expressed doubts over the plans from Defra. He said: “It is now essential that the Government turns its attention to investment for the long-term, beyond 2021, and ensures future funding adequately addresses the growing flood risk facing vulnerable communities across the country.”

These are not the only measures being implemented to reduce the risk of flooding, however. Business leaders [TR5] and experts from sectors such as engineering and technology have launched a trial scheme in Sheffield to design new types of flood defence that could bring value for money to local economies.

Before being replaced at the Treasury in the Cabinet shake-up that followed the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, George Osborne also unveiled a £700m scheme [TR6] to protect the most vulnerable communities against the harsh weather, financed by an increase in insurance premium tax (IPT).

But following on the back of an earlier rise from 6% to 9.5%, the IPT increase of half a percentage point to 10% was seen as excessive[TR7] , with some even going as far as to label it a stealth tax.


Protection from a changing climate
With data from the Met Office [SC8] predicting extreme downpours could strike with 20% to 30% more regularity in the years ahead due to the changing climate, it’s now more important than ever to have the right flood protection in place for 2021 and beyond.

And of course the need for the appropriate insurance cover to protect against the risk of damage is as strong as it has ever been. At NIG we offer high-quality cover for a wide range of businesses.

Our full cycle Property Owners eProduct is traded online by brokers through our eTrading platform TheHub and can cover up to 25 properties.

For larger UK portfolios, our Essential Property Owners product is designed with professional and managing agents in mind.

Our Business Package policy, meanwhile, is suitable for firms in sectors including retail, leisure, services, transport, warehousing, manufacturing and wholesaling and can cover up to three business premises. For larger business risks, our Commercial Combined can cover businesses with turnover into the tens of millions of pounds. 

Find out more about our range of products








 [SC8] (See p. 7, par 3 of the report)