Yorkshire’s flooded firms still without insurance

Flashback to last December's floods in Leeds Picture: Dylan Burnside-Smith
Flashback to last December's floods in Leeds Picture: Dylan Burnside-Smith
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YORKSHIRE businesses destroyed during the Boxing Day floods claim they are being deserted by insurance companies and the Government as they struggle to find the funds to safely re-open.

A two centuries old steel business hit by rising water in the Calder Valley has been left “in the lap of the gods” as it remains unprotected unless they chip in to build a £250,000 flood defence.

In the Kirkstall area of Leeds one business was turned down 13 times by insurance companies while another faces an excess of £25,000.

The finance director of Pulman Steel in Sowerby Bridge, Chris Horner, said: “At the moment we are in the lap of the gods. Anyone who says the insurance market for businesses is working is talking utter nonsense. There just doesn’t seem to be anybody within the insurance industry that is being pro-active about our situation. No-body saying we are going to help.

“I’m not so blind to think insurance companies are charities, but they are multi-national businesses, they are global companies but it just feels like we are swimming against a tide.”

Holly Lynch MP for Halifax said any belief that the insurance market is adequately meeting the needs of businesses is misguided.

Today she has written to Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom asking the Government to ensure companies affected by the floods can get affordable cover in the future.

The problem has surfaced after companies across the region try to renew their policies. While many firms received a payout for their losses on time which helped them get back on their feet, six months on from the catastrophic storms, companies are reluctant to take businesses on again.

In the meantime it is understood some have changed their rules on underwriting policies for flood hit-premises.

Pulman Steel in the Calder Valley was turned down by ten insurance companies when they tried to renew their policy after £1m worth of damage was caused in this winter’s floods.

They were insured once again by their original company but this time they will only be covered if they pay half of the costs for a £250,000 flood defence scheme near their business.

The proposal to increase the height of walls near the River Calder still has to be signed off by the Environment Agency, and even then the insurance company would only pay out if Pulmans meets an excess of £50,000.

Mr Horner said: “We are very worried about the weather until we get the flood defences in place we will remain worried.”

Asked how the company would fare financially if they flood again, he said: “If we don’t get the level of insurance needed in the next six months it wouldn’t quite be shut-up-shop time but we need some help.

“It would be nice if the Government could underwrite the insurance but they aren’t going to do that.”

Huw Evans, Director General, Association of British Insurers, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in June that the problem for small and medium sized businesses getting insurance is of a small scale. However he believes the Government could do more to help.