There are major risks to the sustainability of current levels of flood protection, which could impact on long-term value for money, according to the Public Affairs Committee (PAC).
A report published by the PAC outlined a number of issues and recommendations for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency (EA).
PAC said the capital budget of £2.3bn for flood risks management had been approved for a six-year period from 2015. But the revenue budget, which funds the flood defence maintenance programme, was only approved on an annual basis and this limited EA's ability "to take a long-term approach to planning and procuring maintenance". PAC called on Defra to work with the Treasury to agree on longer-term settlements for revenue funding, as it would allow EA to "plan with certainty and secure savings".
The committee said the EA prioritised maintenance work based on a calculation of economic benefit relative to cost. As a result, some defences would have full maintenance, some would have "minimal" maintenance, and in some cases, the EA would decide not to maintain defences at all.
MP Richard Bacon said: "Reducing the spend on maintaining some flood defences may be a false economy, as additional spending could be needed if those defences then fail earlier than they would otherwise have done."
The PAC also said there was a "lack of transparency" around the consequences of allowing some defences to fail, and requested the EA to be open with local communities about the consequences of prioritising maintenance, "even allowing for the local pressure this may bring".
According to the report, central government could not fund all flood defence schemes, but Defra's approach to accessing partnership funding "did not have the strategic focus needed to match government's ambitions". It recommended Defra and EA implement a "clear strategy" for accessing partnership funding.
Defra said it would consider the issues in the report. A spokesperson said: "It should be noted we have spent half a billion pounds more on maintaining and improving flood defences over this parliament compared to the previous five years and we will also be investing a record £2.3bn in new flood defences over the next six years. This will make 300,000 homes safer and reduce the risk of floods by 5%."