‘Government money must match UK flood advice’

New recommendations on UK flood risk must be matched by Government finance and support, according to commentators from the insurance and reinsurance industry.

The comments follow the publication of the Pitt Report, commissioned by the British Government following the extensive damaging floods of June and July 2007.

“The Pitt Report contains some powerful recommendations to improve both the measurement and management of flood risk, but to have an impact they need to be matched by a commitment from the Government and others to spend significantly more money,” said Bob Ward, director of public policy at cat modelling agency RMS.

He added: “Last year’s floods showed that the UK is not prepared to deal with current levels of flood risk, particularly from sudden heavy downpours overwhelming drainage systems. Although it is extremely unlikely that climate change caused last year’s events, sea level rises and potential shifts in storm patterns will increase flood risk, especially in coastal areas.”

He said that one of the most encouraging developments in the report was the recognition that better information is needed on different sources of flood risk.

Currently, homeowners have no way of knowing if they are exposed to flash flooding, as this is not included in the Environment Agency’s maps. RMS models show that as many as one in four homes is at risk of flooding from excessive rainfall and rivers overflowing.

Ward added that the Government should create incentives for people who already have properties in high-risk areas to make their homes more flood resilient, for example by raising floors or sealing front doors.

The report was based partly on contributions from the insurance industry. However. Some commentators said they were keen to participate in further action.

David Williams, claims director at AXA, said his company would help formulate voluntary guidance to cover reasonable expectations of service performance from insurers.

“AXA would also like to play a part in a National Resilience Forum, designed to facilitate national level planning for flooding and other emergencies,” he said.

“We also strongly endorse the recommendation that local authorities should create a definitive map of all drainage ditches and streams in their area, making clear who is responsible for maintaining them. More than 75% of our flood claims in 2007 resulted from drainage issues."

The Pitt Report has also been seen as a call for the Environment Agency to work more closely with other government departments such as the Met Office, as well as the private sector, particularly insurance companies.

RMS's Bob Ward added: “Insurers have long been using tools to assess flood risk and measure the impact of mitigation measures, so failing to tap into this knowledge is a wasted opportunity."