A flood forecast centre is to be set up as part of the government's response to last summer's devastating floods, the environment secretary Hilary Benn has announced.

The £7.7m centre, to be run by the Met Office and Environment Agency, will take responsibility for warning people and businesses, as well as helping emergency services prepare and respond.

Benn also announced councils will be responsible for assessing and managing local flood risk, as part of the government's official response to Sir Michael Pitt's review of the 2007 floods.

Benn said: "In a flood, preparation and speed of response are crucial. A joint national flood forecasting and alert service will help by providing timely warnings and ensure we get the right help to the people who need it most in the shortest possible time." He also announced a £15m fund for local authorities, including money for six high-risk councils to develop surface water management plans.

Peter Ainsworth, conservative environment spokesman, accused the government of delaying new legislation and shunting responsibility on to local authorities.