Britain's flood defences need urgent attention to bring them up to scratch, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Up to two million properties in England are in areas at risk of flooding, but around 40% of flood defences were found to be in, at best, a fair state.

Sir John Bourne, head of the NAO, said changes in climate over the next 50 years were likely to increase the risk of flooding.

Bourne said it was essential that those whose properties might be affected by flooding knew of the dangers. They should also know what to do in an emergency and who is responsible for flood measures.

Bourne criticised the large number of organisations involved in the provision of flood defence. These include the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Environment Agency, 235 internal drainage boards, nine regional and 11 local flood defence committees and all local authorities.

“All of the bodies involved in flood defence work must be thoroughly joined up to ensure that the complicated arrangements and sharing of responsibility do not absorb energy and resources that might otherwise be devoted to planning and implementing flood defences,” he said.