Storm battered Britain leaks £500m

The cost of clearing up after Storm Desmond battered northern England is rising fast.


Northern England has been battered by storms

The estimated cost of Storm Desmond, which brought record levels of rainfall that caused bridges to collapse, flooded an estimated 5,000 houses across Cumbria and left around 55,000 homes without power, is rising fast. Accountants PwC has put the total insurance costs at £325m, of a total economic cost of £500m, says The Independent.

With more rain on the way, those figures will only rise. In the longer term, climate change is likely to make such events more likely, meaning we need to alter our definition of "freak" weather events. The last severe floods in Carlisle, in 2005, were billed as a 1-in-200-year event the rainfall this time exceeded that level by 50cm.

The government announced an unprecedented six-year £2.3bn flood defence programme in 2014, but there has been a 10% fall in spending on flood defences since 2010, says Gill Plimmer in the FT. But the issue is now rising up the agenda. The cost of repairing flood damage already stands at around £1.1bn a year. A National Audit Office report suggests it could rise to £27bn a year by 2080. Some 5.2 million properties are at risk. Ironically, after 2005, Carlisle benefited from a £38m scheme, including 10km of raised defences and 30 new flood gates.

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There's the financial plight of residents to consider too, saysVictoria Ward in The Daily Telegraph. Delays in implementingFlood Re, a government flood insurance scheme, may have leftsome Cumbrian residents in "dire financial straits". Premiumshave soared by up to £2,000 a year with £20,000 excesses,leaving hundreds of homeowners uninsured. Flood Re, now setto be implemented next April, is expected to be used for around500,000 of the highest-risk houses.

The modelling used to plan new flood defences needs updatingtoo, says The Times, and there will be justifiable demands formore to be spent, more effectively. But we "cannot write ablank cheque". At a time of pressure on every area of publicspending, such an increase should be incremental. We muststrike a balance between the "false economy of inadequatedefences and colossal public works projects at unjustifiable cost".

Homeowners and town planners should do their bit too."It makes no sense to build on flood plains." Those at risk couldtake small steps to protect their homes. "Government has arole in defending this island nation from the rain that so oftendefines it, but flood victims can help themselves as well."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.