A Soggy Christmas and a Pricy New Year for Families on the Somerset Levels

Cathal McNaughton / REUTERS
Cathal McNaughton / REUTERS

Up to 75 families are facing a second Christmas away from their homes because of the flooding which hit the Somerset levels.

Despite the Prime Minister saying money would be ‘no object’, residents have complained that insurance firms are dragging their heals, according to the Western Daily Press.

And for those that have returned they are facing a £99,000 a year insurance premium if they want those homes insured for any future flood damage.

Those suffering at the hands of insurance firms have branded the situation “intolerable” including the residents’ campaign group FLAG.

Their spokesperson Jill Shortland said that while the numbers of people who were still not able to go home had gone down, there is still a “significant number of residents who will be out until the spring and many of those were originally old they’d be back in their homes by now. ”

“There is one lady whose insurance company told her she’d be back in her house in July, then it was September, then November, then January, and now she’s been told it will be March. Because of that original assessment, she was put in a damp caravan with no heating, and when the assessor came round she made him sit on her sofa which was soaking wet because of the damp.”

“People can’t possibly live like this. When people do move back, it’s not like their problems are over. Several families have moved back in, got their possessions back from storage, which the insurers sorted out and paid for, only to find all their stuff was damp and mouldy, and the insurance firms are saying that it is not their responsibility.

“Then, when the residents go to ask about insuring their homes again, it is shocking. Everyone in Moorland is being quoted, say, £800 a year for home insurance, without flood insurance, but if they want to add flooding to that, it’s an extra premium of £99,000,” she said.

“Obviously no one is paying that, it’s absolutely ludicrous. So people are living with that thought hanging over them, even when they do go back.

“Everyone you speak to has a horror story to tell about their insurers, it’s not just one or two cases, it’s happening all around with everyone I speak to. Many have been told not to complain to the papers, and some that do have found their insurance company simply won’t deal with them anymore. They are scared that if they speak out it will get worse, it’s disgraceful.

Somerset MEP William Dartmouth told Breitbart London, “It is typical of the European Union and the ‘Habitats Directive’ to put the welfare of creatures such as hairy click beetles above the lives of the people of Somerset who have suffered at the hands of the silting up of rivers and the flooding of their homes and destruction of their treasured possessions.

“I will be discussing whether we can apply to the EU’s Solidarity Fund to help with funds for these insurance payments – after all it is our money in the first place.”

The first dredging of the rivers started in March of this year, when 400,000 tonnes of silt were scooped out of the rivers Parrett and Tone as part of a £5m dredging scheme.

But this only amounts to five miles of river and locals have been calling for the waterways to be cleared for a long time. The combined length of the Tone and Parrett is around 69 miles long.

The efforts had been called “a token dredge” to keep residents happy.

Local farmer and pub landlord Jim Winkworth told The Guardian “dredging is only part of the solution. We also need more investment in the structures, like sluices and pumps. We’re relying on ancient pumps when state-of-the-art ones would have saved us this winter.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said, “Last winter’s severe floods left many properties underwater and inaccessible for weeks. Insurers reacted quickly, drafting in extra staff and loss adjusters to get to flooded properties as soon as possible to arrange for the drying out process and repairs to take place. Our members dealt with 18,700 claims for last winter’s floods, costing an estimated £451million. Where required, insurers arranged emergency cash payments and alternative accommodation for homeowners affected to meet their immediate needs.

“Insurers have worked with Government to address the cost and availability of insuring households at significant risk of flooding by developing and working to set up a scheme called Flood Re. Flood Re is a not-for-profit scheme built to ensure flood insurance remains widely affordable and available.”