Flood insurance scheme ‘may be extended to small businesses in Leeds and Yorkshire’

DECEMBER 2015: Flooding on Kirkstall Road.
DECEMBER 2015: Flooding on Kirkstall Road.
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A Government minister has revealed a new scheme to help households get affordable flood insurance could be extended to small businesses.

Many hundreds of companies are struggling to get cover after storms brought devastation to large parts of Yorkshire over Christmas.

As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post last week, updated figures show 678 businesses in Leeds - and a total of 3,396 properties including thousands of homes - were affected by the Boxing Day deluge.

Transport minister Robert Goodwill, the flood envoy for Yorkshire, said the Flood Re scheme could be used as a model to help small businesses. But he warned that it would take time to come into effect.

Flood Re is designed to help households at the greatest risk of flooding access affordable insurance.

The scheme, which launches next month, will allow insurers to pass the risk of insuring flood-prone residential properties to a new company, which is funded by an industry levy.

Mr Goodwill said: “It is the Government’s response to the real crisis which faces people who have been flooded and cannot get insurance or people whose neighbours have been flooded and cannot get insurance themselves... we will not have a situation where people cannot get insurance for their properties.

“The message we have had from business is that small businesses face a similar problem.

“What we need to do is look at how the model of Flood Re can potentially be transferred onto a small business Flood Re working in a similar way.

“But what we first need to do is learn the lessons of how the new scheme will work... and see how we can transfer any of those lessons to the new scheme.”

The MP said the new scheme should apply only to small businesses as larger companies are able to speak directly to insurers.

He said businesses such as small retailers are “facing real issues” in getting flood insurance because of the historic location of many high streets next to rivers in town and city centres.

Mr Goodwill made the comments after a private business event held by the Confederation of British Industry at accountancy firm PwC’s office in Leeds, which was itself hit by the Boxing Day floods.

He said: “The Government committed £2.3bn ovr a six-year period for flood defence, which compares very favourably with the £1.7bn during the coalition and £1.bn committed over five years in the last Labour Government.

“That means more schemes will be delivered. Those schemes will be measured against cost benefits.”

Mr Goodwill said he is talking to the Treasury about funding for repairs to transport infrastructure in Yorkshire.

He said the Government has already committed funding to bridges in Tadcaster and Elland but the talks concern small projects such as Linton bridge, the A646 at Falling Royd and the Scout Road tip site, both in Mytholmroyd.

Flood Re announced last month it had secured £2.1bn in a multi-year reinsurance programme.

The tender process was oversubcribed, demonstrating investor confidence in the model.

Brendan McCafferty, chief executive of Flood Re, said: “Securing £2.1bn in annual protection is an important milestone towards Flood Re being ready to accept policies for flood risk households.

“The reinsurance programme has been significantly oversubscribed and we are pleased by the strong demand from the reinsurance market.

“This is an innovative solution that demonstrates the thought leadership only found in the UK insurance industry.

“Although the reinsurance process has now been completed on time and ahead of planned budget, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We are testing our systems with insurers to ensure they work effectively and will also continue to work closely with the financial regulators to obtain the authorisation we need to operate.”

Flood Re will work by taking the flood risk element of home insurance from an insurer in return for a premium based on the property’s council tax band.

It is estimated that around 350,000 households could benefit from the new scheme.

Backers hope there will be a greater choice for customers.

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