LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Government to help businesses secure affordable insurance following last winter’s floods which devastated firms across the region..
Mr Corbyn urged ministers and the insurance industry to work together to extend an existing scheme covering homes, known as Flood Re, to cover industry.
He claimed the area was continuing to pay the price for cuts to flood defence budgets inflicted by the Coalition government.
The Labour leader was speaking after joining Halifax MP Holly Lynch to visit Abram Pulman & Sons, in Sowerby Bridge, which was devastated in last year’s Boxing Day floods.
The company spent weeks cleaning up after the floods and only returned to full capacity in the summer.
It now faces a battle to secure comprehensive insurance cover at a cost that is realistic to the business.
Mr Corbyn told The Yorkshire Post: “This company employs 75 people, had a major flood disaster, lost all their business, only fully re-opened after eight or nine months, had to buy new trucks, new cutting equipment and everything else.
“Yes that was all covered by insurance but now they’ve got to get full insurance and they’ve got to spend a great deal of money on their own flood defences.
“Unless there is a back up scheme for companies in high flood areas we will see an economic risk because if companies cannot get insurance then they are hardly likely to invest in hundreds of thousands of pounds in new equipment.”
Mr Corbyn called for a “holistic approach” to reducing flood risk in areas like Calderdale through managing water in different ways upstream including allowing farmland to flood in addition to conventional defences.
The area is approaching the first anniversary of the floods and recent weather has again seen sharp rises in river levels.
Asked if Yorkshire was any better prepared 12 months on, Mr Corbyn said: “I hope we are but we had a near miss only a week and a bit ago with the river up 1.4m. All the predictions are once again heavy rainfall all winter.
“We live in an era of climate change, we live in an era of unpredictably very high rainfall. Of course we have to act globally to do everything we can to mitigate climate change but we also have to take sensible measures of protection.
“I argue strongly for a permanent programme that can’t be mucked about with, that can’t be seen as a sort of cash resource to pull a bit out of here and there.”
A review of the impact of the floods on West Yorkshire and York published last week put the overall cost at more than £500m including £100m on repairing roads, bridges and Yorkshire Water infrastructure.
More than 4,000 homes and 2,900 businesses were flooded and 12,000 properties remain at “high risk”, the report said.
The Government has committed £200m to be spent on flood defences in the area.
A Flood Re spokeswoman said: “Flood Re was set up for householders in flood risk areas of the UK that were struggling to find affordable flood insurance. In the six months since the scheme launched, Flood Re has taken on over 53,000 policies, Flood Re is changing the market for those living in flood risk areas across the UK.
“Our priority is to ensure that as winter approaches, householders living in areas at risk of flooding have more affordable flood cover. Previous studies have not found any evidence of systemic failings in the SME market.
“We understand that the Government and insurance industry are looking into how they can help businesses in flood prone areas.”