THOSE homeowners in Yorkshire whose properties are at risk of flooding will only be partly reassured by the announcement that firms will continue to provide flood insurance for an extra month after the present deal between the Government and the insurance industry expires.
While Environment Secretary Owen Paterson insists that a new agreement is on the verge of being agreed, this last-minute extension of an arrangement that dates back more than a decade nevertheless condemns scores of people to further months of worry.
Under the current Statement of Principles, established in 2000 by the Labour government, insurers will offer insurance to previously flooded or at-risk customers as long as the Government continues to build flood defences.
However, it will be of deep concern to the 200,000 households situated in high-risk flood areas that if this expires with no new model in place they will face serious difficulties obtaining insurance or will potentially be forced to pay even higher premiums on the free market.
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh, the MP for Wakefield, has a point when she questions why a deal struck 13 years ago – and which had a clear expiry date – is only now being renegotiated.
While the financial constraints dictated by the scale of the national deficit left behind by Labour may well have been a factor in terms of what the Government could bring to the table, the seriousness of this issue surely dictated that negotiations were completed well in advance of the cut-off point – if only to provide some much-needed reassurance to those who stand to be affected.
That being said, there is no question that the Government faces a difficult juggling act in terms of securing a long-term solution that balances affordability and comprehensiveness of cover for homeowners against the demands of the insurance industry – and does so in a manner which does not place a long-term burden on the taxpayer.
Alongside this, it is imperative that the coalition continues to pledge sufficient funds to the construction of flood defences – not least in those areas of Yorkshire hit hardest by the 2007 floods. Doing nothing is simply not an option.