By Chris Ruane
At the end of November 2012 the Afon Elwy at St Asaph burst its banks, sending a torrent of water across a huge portion of the newly crowned city and the neighbouring village of Rhuddlan. An elderly resident lost her life and around 500 houses were submerged in the worst floods in the area since nearby Towyn was devastated in the early 1990s.
Once the flood water receded a clearer picture of the damage and tragedy unfolded. Walking around St Asaph and watching people clear out the water-damaged furniture and belongings was a sobering experience and speaking to them revealed their many different experiences of dealing with insurance companies – if they had insurance at all.
Over the years, I believe we have learnt many lessons from flooding. I would have to pay credit to those insurance companies who immediately sent a representative out to St Asaph to be there, on hand to speak directly to their clients and deal with any problems which were cropping up.
However, I also spoke with residents who were having great difficulty in dealing with their insurance firm, and sadly it was quite often only when I intervened did some action take place. It would be a huge help if, in the future, all insurance companies had someone to be a dedicated ‘on-site’ representative who could go out immediately when flooding takes place and deal with the many enquiries which would arise from such an incident.
Six months on and more issues in relation to insurance are cropping up. Under previous governments, an agreement was in place with the Association of British Insurers – a ‘statement of principles’ in which each householder effectively subsidises those who live on flood plains to ensure they can get home insurance. This was up for renewal in June 2013, and the coalition government was well aware of this. Unfortunately, David Cameron has allowed the deadline to pass (it has only recently been extended a month by the ABI) and it could mean hundreds of thousands of homes across the UK are effectively worthless; I am already seeing the impact of this in my constituency.
As insurance policies are coming up for renewal many residents of St Asaph have spoken about their difficulty in protecting their properties.
Many have simply been rejected out-right for insurance, while in other cases people have been offered insurance but told that their insurance excess would be £10,000. These are figures which are well beyond most people.
And this is all a direct response to the coalition government allowing a situation which should have been dealt with drag on and on.
David Cameron may have said that there was good news in the pipeline in relation to the statement of principles but this is getting to be too little, too late. It will be of no help to those who may have their homes flooded over coming weeks or months and who were unable to get insurance because of his intransigence on this. It will be of no help to people who have been unable to sell their property.
Coupled with the coalition government’s cutbacks on improvements to flood defences, David Cameron has managed to create the perfect storm for homeowners in the UK.
If action isn’t taken now then huge problems await us over the next few months.
Chris Ruane is the MP for Vale of Clwyd.
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