By Sarah Tawton
Residents affected by flooding will get funding support but it could be some time before a deal is reached on home insurance cover, a Government minister has said.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson confirmed that more money would be put into flood defences but admitted that no conclusion had yet been agreed in talks with insurerers on affordable flood insurance cover for people living in areas at risk.
The Government has already pledged £2.71 billion to protect around 145,000 homes, and Chancellor George Osborne also announced plans to spend another £120 million on flood defences in his Autumn Statement.
The first portion of this new funding will be released over the coming financial year, with half of it to be spent on major flood defences to protect infrastructure, homes and businesses.
Meanwhile, partnership schemes have also raised another £72 million from the private sector, Mr Paterson said.
Hundreds of homes have been affected by flooding across the UK following the wettest year on record.
During a visit to flood defences in Worcestershire, Mr Paterson said the emergency services and Environment Agency had responded "heroically" to the recent flooding crisis.
But he revealed that talks are still ongoing with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) over the issue of affordable flood insurance for households in high-risk areas.
Mr Paterson said the Government wanted a new insurance system which is "better, comprehensive, and which is affordable and does not burden the taxpayer".
Ministers are awaiting a "constructive proposal" from the ABI, Mr Paterson said. He admitted that making flood insurance affordable was "a huge and complex problem" but added: "We are confident we can reach a resolution."
Mr Paterson's visit to Worcestershire included a tour of Upton-upon-Severn. The town has flooded 70 times since 1970, but residents have been protected in recent months by a new £4.4 million flood defence system which was opened in July 2012.
The defences consist of a riverside water-tight barrier and a series of gates. The defences have successfully kept back the waters of the River Severn, protecting 64 homes and businesses from flooding and preventing 3,000 residents from becoming cut off.
Pub landlord Grahame Bunn said the defences had "saved the future of the town".
And Mr Paterson said the system had already effectively paid for itself twice over, in the amount of money which had been saved from insurance claims.
He hailed Upton's defences as a "brilliant" demonstration of how investment in flood defences could help local communities.
ABI spokesman Malcolm Tarling said talks were ongoing with the Government in a bid to reach a solution to ensure that flood insurance remains "affordable and available to people at high risk".
He added: "We've put forward to the Government a scheme that we believe achieves that, through a levy on every household, on the basis that these days anyone can be affected by flooding. We are discussing the practicalities of that scheme at the moment."