UK flooding bill exceeds £5 billion small firms worst affected - Updated

Small firms struggle in flood aftermath

Update The current estimate for the Summer Flooding Bill now exceeds £5 Billion, insurers are now processing over 11,000 claims from businesses for the disruption and damage caused.

A farmer watches his crop rot in the fields. A pizza and kebab seller wonders when his shop can open again. A builders' merchant is still clearing skip after skip of debris from his premises. These are just three of the businesses affected by the devastating floods that swept through thousands of homes and offices last week. Teams of loss adjusters are now sweeping through South Yorkshire and the Hull area, totting up the bills for the insurance industry. New figures released on Friday by the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters suggest that claims relating to the floods will total more than £1.5bn - £825m for domestic claims, £680m for businesses. (see update note - Estimates now exceed £5 billion)
The Chartered Institute says virtually all properties where there is a claim have now been visited by its members, and the rest should have had a visit by the beginning of next week.

Just north of Doncaster, in the village of Bentley, you can spot smart-looking young men in suits carrying clipboards, visiting shops and businesses affected by the floods. Some are loss adjusters, others are loss assessors, offering to fight an insurance claim in return for a cut of the proceeds. “Some other businesses along the river may struggle to survive this" asys Ian Wild, BMB BuildBase, Rotherham.

In his pizza and kebab shop on the high street, Ihsan Silfikir says he has been visited by both an adjuster and an assessor. "I'm not using the assessor - they want up to 20% of my claim," he said, as we walked through his ruined premises, where industrial fridges will need to be replaced and the floor may need to come up. His business has been closed for more than a week, and he isn't sure when he'll be able to start selling pizzas and kebabs again. But he seems confident that the insurance company, which has already inspected his premises, will foot the bill.

Ian Wild, manager of BMB BuildBase in Rotherham, has a remarkable story. When the Don burst its banks last Monday evening, flooding the yard and ruining the stock inside the store, he and two other members of staff were trapped overnight. "It was 6ft deep in the yard, 3ft in the store and we had to sleep upstairs," he explains. For the next two days, they worked solidly. By Thursday, the yard was fully open for business again. Skips are still being filled with ruined stock and the firm reckons it will cost £200,000 to put things right. That won't be repaid by the insurance company for a while. "Luckily, we're part of a national group," says Mr Wild. "Some other businesses along the river may struggle to survive this."

For farmers, it is a bleak picture, because they are unable to insure their crops while they are still in the ground. A few miles outside Doncaster, Richard Pashley showed a 30-acre field of potatoes, with an ugly black scar running across the middle. "That's about 10 acres of potatoes ruined - and he would have hoped to get £20,000 for that crop, come the harvest in September," he explains.

The bill for the damage caused by the floods continues to mount. For some, it will all be met by the insurance industry. But plenty of businesses are not fully covered - and many are angry with what they see as the lack of help being offered to them.

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