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18 February 2014, 10:36 | Updated: 18 February 2014, 10:38
A first glimpse of the economic impact of the 2014 flooding on Somerset businesses has been revealed following a snapshot survey of businesses in the county, with an average of £17,352 per business being lost in financial terms and productivity in just six weeks.
While many businesses said it was still too early to gauge the impact, 71 of the 170 respondents were able to give an indication of how much the flooding has cost their business to date, estimating that they have lost a combined £1,232,009 in financial terms and lost productivity since the start of this year.
Conducted by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, the responses indicate that the flooding has had an impact on 70 per cent of the businesses surveyed, with almost 40 per cent facing a reduction in customers and more than 35 per cent seeing a fall in sales.
Trade is estimated to be down around a quarter on average. Business opportunity has been impacted too, with more than one in four saying they have been unable to attend meetings, resulting in a significant loss in potential economic opportunity for the county.
Meanwhile, power cuts have affected 14 per cent of the businesses surveyed and one in ten has been without a telephone and/or broadband due to the adverse weather conditions.
Almost 40 per cent of respondents say their commute to work has been affected by the flooding. 29 per cent of those surveyed said their commute is taking longer, with just over half of them seeing their journey time at least double.
Meanwhile, with roads and bridges closed, 20 per cent are travelling further to get to work with 30 per cent of those travelling at least twice as far, all of which an impact from both a financial and environmental perspective. 44% of respondents said that employees had been late or off work this year due to the flooding, with the average amount of time lost equating to almost 10 working days per business, or two full working weeks.
A quarter of respondents said that although they are trading normally, the negative publicity relating to the prolonged period of flooding is affecting their business.
Rupert Cox, CEO of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said, ''While we welcome the government's pledge to provide funding to help flood-affected businesses get back on their feet, the reality is that the £10million allocated for this scheme is only going to scratch the surface.
''The findings from our snapshot survey do not include the many businesses still without power or broadband connection, or without the time to complete a survey as they're fighting to keep the water out of their homes and premises. Many say it is too early to gauge the impact on their businesses, as until the water subsides it is difficult to know the full extent of the damage caused. Yet from our initial research, over £1.23million is already estimated to have been lost by those businesses that did complete the survey. If the rain continues and the water does not subside, this is only going to increase.
''The Somerset Chamber will continue to monitor the economic impact of the flooding and to work closely with businesses in the county, supporting them wherever we can and collating their feedback on the consequences of the flooding in order to help fuel future lobbying activity. We must do everything we can to make sure the required investment in infrastructure is made to protect homes and business in Somerset so that this situation is never allowed to happen again.''