London council urges Government to review flood insurance scheme

·3-min read

A London council is calling on the Government to expand its flood reinsurance scheme following a rise in weather-related flooding incidents in the past year.

The Flood Re Scheme is a reinsurance scheme which aims to make flood cover more widely available as part of home insurance for properties at the greatest risk of flooding.

But Westminster Council has said the scheme is “insufficient” due to its “restrictive criteria” that means it is unavailable to properties in blocks of more than four flats, or for private renters.

Westminster was the borough most impacted by flooding last year and it is almost one year since a major incident was declared when a month’s worth of rain fell in one day, causing severe damage to hundreds of homes and businesses.

In total, London Fire Brigade responded to 2,100 weather-related flooding incidents across the capital in 2021, 253 of which were in Westminster – 70 more than any other borough.

Residents of the borough have spoken about how it is “infuriating” trying to find insurance that will cover the cost of repairing flood damage following last year’s inclement weather.

Lauren Brown, a teacher whose home flooded in less than 45 minutes during the major incident last summer, said there are “so many loopholes” in the Government’s Flood Re Scheme that she has been unable to access it.

She said: “The government need to look into these loopholes for the hundreds of people in London who are not able to move back into their houses.”

Westminster Council, which was won by Labour for the first time in its history at May’s local elections, has called on the Government to “urgently review” the Flood Re scheme.

Geoff Barraclough, council cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “The damage caused by the floods in July last year was heart-breaking. It destroyed many of our residents’ homes, ruined their life-long possessions and took a personal toll on so many people who were impacted.

“We need to do more to help residents in Westminster insure themselves against the risk of future flooding. The Government should urgently review Flood Re’s needlessly restrictive eligibility criteria so that the scheme can protect all of our residents.”

The Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which manages funding related to floods and flood defences, said that renters and landlords are able to obtain contents insurance through Flood Re when full home insurance policies are not available.

Landlords are unable to make use of Flood Re since landlord insurance is classified as a commercial business insurance, which is not available through the scheme.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Everyone should have access to affordable flood insurance. Flood Re is designed to ensure domestic flood insurance is available and affordable – and tenants and leaseholders can obtain contents insurance supported by this scheme.

“Landlord insurance is often covered by bespoke policies, and we’ve worked with industry to set up a new flood insurance directory to signpost customers to when they cannot offer flood cover.”

To date, the Flood Re Scheme has benefitted more than 450,000 properties across the UK, according to Defra. In 2021/22, 256,634 properties in the country were covered by the scheme.

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