Councils have called on the insurance industry and government to urgently address the double whammy caused by an increased risk of flooding and difficulties faced by households in getting flood insurance.
The Local Government Association, which represents over 350 councils in England and Wales, today said residents and local authorities in towns, cities and villages close to water could face an £11bn liability because of 'unfair and unaffordable' insurance premiums.
It has written to the Association of British Insurers and environment minister Richard Benyon to raise its concerns over a situation it believes could leave tens of thousands of homes uninsurable from next year.
The current Flood Insurance Statement of Principles between the ABI and government providing a 'safety net' that guarantees cover to flood-risk homes expires in June 2013.
Last month, the ABI warned that failure to strike a replacement deal could mean as many as 200,000 homes could struggle to get insurance. The ABI has calledon the government to act as insurer of last resort on flood insurance.
According to the LGA, some insurance companies are already either refusing cover or adding thousands of pounds on to premiums and excess policies. People in areas including Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Devon, Kent and Huddersfield have been refused or priced out of home insurance because of flood risk, it said.
Cllr Clare Whelan, from the LGA's environment and housing board, said: 'Councils are the organisations to which people turn to for help in their hour of need. However, we simply cannot afford to take the risk of being left to foot a multi-billion pound bill if we see more devastating scenes like those in Cockermouth three years ago.
'The insurance industry has a responsibility to help people manage risk and should not be allowed to hand pick low-risk homes while leaving those most in need high and dry.'
'We all remember the wave of destruction the 2007 floods caused. It is imperative that the insurance industry commits as soon as possible to providing affordable and fair insurance premiums once the current safety net agreement expires next year.'
In its letter to Mr Benyon and ABI director general Otto Thoreson, the LGA also called on the insurance industry to use the latest information on flood resilience measures, adopting a shared understanding of flood risks, when setting premiums. This would mean people in areas where there is a low risk of flooding do not face disproportionately high premiums, it said.
It also said insurers should start to take into account flood risk prevention measures on people's homes when setting premiums. According to the LGA, steps like raising plug sockets and anti-flood drainage systems can minimise the potential for flood damage but are not recognised by insurers.
Cllr Whelan said it was 'imperative' that the Department for environment, food and rural affairs show strong leadership in ensuring both long-term affordability and availability of flood insurance.
She said the LGA would be bringing together councils to work with government and the insurance industry to find new ways of providing affordable flood-risk cover, in particular for low-income households.