Government measures are a response to critical report on last year's 'devastating' floods

Ministers have announced plans for a £7.7m flood forecasting centre as part of a set of measures to tackle the effects of flooding.

The government said the body would provide early warnings on floods in order to avoid a disaster on the scale of last summer's deluge.

It has also given councils in high-risk areas £15m to help assess future threats and set aside money to help homeowners not covered by community defence schemes protect their houses

The measures follow a highly critical government-commissioned report into last summer's floods, which killed 13 people and damaged almost 45,000 homes.

Its author, Sir Michael Pitt said the government, local authorities and the public should take flooding more seriously and made 92 recommendations on making Britain better prepared for crises on last year's scale.

Announcing today's measures, environment secretary Hilary Benn said: “The floods of summer 2007 were devastating and affected many people's lives.

“We can't stop sudden heavy rainfall, as the flooding last weekend in parts of the country showed, but we can be as prepared as possible. And this action plan will mean that we are better able to respond.”

Tom Foulkes, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers welcomed the announcement but said there was still a shortage of skilled people in flood risk management.

He said: “Secure, long-term funding is vital across the board and we must now ensure there is no return to stop-start funding, which has undermined industry confidence and reduced skills investment.”