POLICE budget cuts are to blame for a rise in crime across County Durham, a police federation chief has claimed.

Despite recorded crime falling elsewhere in the region and static levels nationally, offending in County Durham and Darlington increased by nine per cent between April 2013 and March 2014.

Durham Constabulary recorded 32,806 crimes over the 12 months - up by 2,718 on the previous 12 months.

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Violence, sexual offences, burglary and shoplifting were all up, although vehicle crime and robberies were down.

Kevin Wilson, secretary of Durham Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said he warned several years ago that police funding cuts were "too fast, too deep and too quick" and this increase in crime was a direct result of those reductions.

In response to the figures, Durham Constabulary repeated comments made in April that the county had seen year-on-year reductions in recorded crime between 2006 and 2013 which resulted in a 44 per cent fall in offences and almost 24,000 fewer crimes.

Crime levels remained similar to the low levels of the early 1980s, the force said.

Elsewhere in the region, Cleveland Police recorded a one per cent drop in crime, with sexual offences, theft and shoplifting up, but violence, burglary and vehicle offences falling.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: “To be reducing overall crime in these challenging times is a real testament to officers, staff and partner agencies and shows their commitment to providing a great service to protect our communities from harm."

In North Yorkshire, Chief Constable Dave Jones said the figures for his force were "encouraging", however he warned that there are challenging times ahead.

The statistics show that there were 34,462 crimes reported in 2013/14, which was a reduction of 0.1 per cent from last year and a reduction from the 47,940 offences in 2009.

Anti-social behaviour, burglary, vehicle crime and robbery were all down, however the forced reported a 14 per cent leap in sexual offences.

Crime in Northumbria rose by four per cent over the year.

Nationally, the Office for National Statistics revealed that crime has fallen to its lowest level since 1981, according to a national survey, but recorded crime showed no change compared to the previous year, with 3.7 million offences recorded in the 12 months to March.

Before this, data had shown year-on-year reductions since 2002/03.