Counting the cost: Hopes raised of government cash to fund clear-up

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James Bass. Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: James Bass.

Sunday, December 8, 2013
8:31 PM

As the debris clears, thoughts for many turn to the costs of rehoming, rebuilding and repairing.

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While it is still too early to estimate the final cost of the damage to Norfolk and Suffolk, hopes have been raised that central government funding may be available to help rebuild shattered communities.

And though insurance bodies have issued advice to homeowners pursuing claims, it will come as no comfort to others whose properties were uninsured against Thursday’s surge.

Walcott residents Wes Woods and Helen Robinson were unable to insure their seafront static home, and watched on Thursday as the waves crashed down upon it.

“It was smashed apart: everything we’ve worked for these past two years has gone,” said Mr Woods, 35.

As well as their home, the pair lost all the equipment belonging to their youth community organisation and built up over many years.

“Everything we own is gone. How do you begin to put a cost on that?” he asked.

Discussions are due to take place between the Environment Agency and local authorities this week to assess the final sum of the damage.

Financial help may be available through the Government’s Bellwin Scheme, which compensates councils for works done to “safeguard life or property” for people living in their area.

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said it was too early to speculate about the total cost of the surge, but that funding could be made available.

“When there were big floods in the south west, the council had to spend money repairing roads and housing. The scheme is that they do the work and then reclaim it from the government,” he said.

“Local government in certain areas is expected to have money put aside for these events, as they know that they are at risk.”

Mr Lewis reserved praise for the spirit of community that has characterised the early days of the flood response.

“Everyone has been praising the fire service, police and the army, and quite rightly, but there was another whole army of school teachers, caterers, volunteers, the Red Cross and other local people helping out, who were phenomenal in keeping everyone safe.”

The Association of British Insurers has advised all claimants to contact their insurer as soon as possible.

If necessary homeowners should make temporary reparirs to prevent damage getting worse, but tell their insurer and keep receipts. They should also look to keep items which could be repaired or restored, and to take time to allow their property to dry fully before beginning to redecorate.

Aidan Kerr, head of property insurance at the ABI, said: “The impact of bad weather can be tragic, traumatic and destructive. Events like this are exactly what insurance is for.

“Storm damage and flooding are covered as standard in property insurance policies. Top priority for insurers is to do everything possible to ensure customers get their claims moving and recover as soon as possible.”

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