UK weather: Insurance bosses summoned to Downing Street to discuss flood response

£14m has been paid out in insurance claims so far – with another £24m spent on emergency accommodation

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The Independent Online

Insurance chiefs will meet with ministers at Downing Street today to discuss their response to the flood crisis after it emerged victims have received £14 million in emergency payments since December.

Senior representatives of leading firms are due to meet for talks over the Government's calls for a "stepped-up national effort" to deal with the effects of the extreme weather as quickly as possible.

They have been asked to demonstrate what measures they have undertaken to get households back on their feet "as quick and as simple as possible", Number 10 said.

Two severe flood warnings remain in place in the southwest. The Environment Agency has also issued 119 flood warnings across parts of England and Wales.

Thousands of homes have been hit by flooding across the south of England, and the cost to insurers could reach more than £1billion.

On top of the £14 million in successful insurance claims - with payouts typically ranging between £500 to £3,000 - £24 million has been spent on emergency accommodation, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

It said more than 2,000 loss adjusters were "ready and waiting" to assess the damage when the flood waters had subsided sufficiently and 1,800 staff had been reassigned to deal with customer queries.

The sheer scale of the likely claims has raised fears of rising premiums wiping out recent falls, after summer floods in 2007 resulted in a hit of more than £3 billion.

Flooding minister Dan Rogerson said: "We all need to pull together to help those areas badly affected by the floods, so they can get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

"Dealing with the aftermath will take time and requires a stepped-up national effort.

"Insurers have a critical role to play and by working closely together we will continue to ensure that the help and support which people need is available."

The chief executives of Aviva, Direct Line Group, Axa, Lloyds Banking Group and Ageas, the claims director of RSA and underwriting director of Axa are due to attend, representing 60 per cent of the market.

ABI director general Otto Thoresen will also join Mr Rogerson, Cabinet Office ministers Oliver Letwin and Jo Johnson and communities minister Brandon Lewis.

A flooded property in Wraysbury, west of London

Mr Thoresen said: "Insurers have been on the ground in local communities since before Christmas working to help people get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

"With £14 million already paid out in emergency payments since December 23 and £24 million spent on emergency accommodation, insurers are geared up to help in every way they can."

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 service personnel remain committed to provide flood relief as the country continues to recover from the damage caused by the severe weather.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said military personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, and the Royal Air Force are continuing to provide flood relief in affected parts of the UK, including the Somerset Levels and Severn Valley in the south west, the rivers Itchen and Test in the south and the Thames Valley.

Despite this, polling yesterday showed most Britons believe the Government has lost control of the flooding crisis, as police announced 24-hour boat patrols in flood-hit areas to prevent looting.

Nearly three-quarters of Britons (72 per cent) polled said the Coalition does not appear to be in control of the situation, and almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of those asked in the survey said the Government has emerged from the extreme weather situation with a worse reputation for crisis management.

The poll by ComRes for ITV News found that just a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents believe the flooding has made no difference and only seven per cent think that the Government is emerging from the situation with a better reputation.

As the weather began to abate, Avon and Somerset Police said they would be using two inflatable lifeboats provided by the RNLI to keep communities on the Somerset Levels hit by flooding safe.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Watch: The Environment Agency warns there may be more flooding