MINISTERS have given the stark warning that Worcester and Bewdley are at exactly the same risk of flooding as last year.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said there was a 30 per cent likelihood of flooding in Bewdley and a 20 per cent chance in Worcester.

Floods Minister Elliot Morley said there had been no change in the likelihood of a flood since last year as work on new defences was yet to start.

But he offered some reassurance by stating there was only a 3.5 per cent chance that any flooding which does take place in Worcester would be as bad as last year, when 80 homes were left under water.

In Bewdley, the chance of a flood as bad as last year - when 140 properties were hit - is only two per cent.

However Mr Morley warned: "I do have to say quite openly that we can't guarantee that floods won't happen."

He released the predictions as part of an announcement on how much cash will be spent on flood defences in the next financial year.

The Minister said a total of £13.9m should be spent in the Severn Trent region - an increase of £3.8m on the current year.

Forty-five per cent will come from the Government, with the rest being raised by the Regional Flood Defence Committee through local councils.

Mr Morley said flood defence works due to start in Bewdley next month would reduce the risk of flooding to just one per cent.

A possible scheme for Worcester is still at the planning stage and could begin in 2007.

The Minister admitted there was still much to do to improve flood defences, and more money would be forthcoming.

"We'll be making our submission to the Treasury in the course of our 2002 spending review for the next three year spending programmes," he said. "We're backing that up with independent research which shows there is a need."

Worcester MP Mike Foster said: "Extra money is welcome, but clearly in Worcestershire we'll have to wait until a scheme has been devised by the Environment Agency before anything can happen.

"My job will be to make sure that - as soon as a scheme is devised - the money is brought forward as soon as possible.

"But getting the scheme agreed in the first place has to be the priority."