Some local authorities would be unable to cover the costs of a repeat of this summer's flooding, a report warned today.
An Audit Commission review of government assistance for flood hit areas concluded funds were distributed quickly but poorly targeted across the country and failed to offer good value for money.
Inconsistencies in allocating grants have seen local authorities left shouldering widely varying financial burdens, with some meeting three per cent of total costs while others have to fund as much as 73 per cent.
Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, said: "This is a tale of two floods. There are some local authorities which, although badly hit by the flooding, will bounce back quickly.
"Others will be dealing with the effects of the flooding for some time to come."
He warned: "Local authorities were able to cope this time, but if there was another serious flood tomorrow, some wouldn't have enough money in reserve."
The Audit Commission noted that different levels of insurance cover were also to blame for the varying bills, but said it would be an "unsustainable cost" for every local authority to insure for every eventuality.
The commission's report, Staying Afloat - Financing Emergencies, calls on central and local government to discuss risk sharing of major disasters in future.
Attacked for inconsistent funding, the Department for Communities and Local Government argued it would not have been appropriate to enforce a one-size fits all approach.
Floods recovery minister John Healey said: "Communities wanted quick and comprehensive support, not a response set out in a rule book six inches thick."
Speaking to the Today programme, he continued: "I make no apologies for acting swiftly and decisively and we would have rightly been criticised if we'd done otherwise."
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a review of emergency grants in light of the report.
Tom Brake, Lib Dem local government spokesman, said the current system was a "mess".
He explained: "Local councils are unable to plan properly for emergencies such as this summer's floods because of the uncertainty over what will be funded by the government.
"This report makes it clear that climate change is increasing the risks to both home owners and councils. The government must get smarter in the back-up it provides when a disaster strikes a local community."