KNIFE crime reached a record level last year in England and Wales, while there was the highest number of homicides for more than a decade, official figures show.

Police recorded 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp objects in 2018, an increase of six per cent in a year and the largest total since comparable data began in 2011.

The number of homicides last year stood at 732, the highest in any calendar year since 2007 when it hit 765.

The Cleveland force area saw a rise from 3 in 2017 to 15 in 2018 – one of the biggest rises in the country.

The data released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) came after a spate of knife crimes involving young people triggered a political row over cuts to police funding.

One of the latest killings was that of an 18-year-old man stabbed to death in the Harborne area of Birmingham on Wednesday evening.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the "deeply troubling" figures show "reckless cuts must end".

Fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the "disturbing increase" in violent crime comes as arrests fall.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Police said: "In relation to violent crime we have seen increases mirroring the national picture. Our commitment to tackling weapons offences has been reinforced recently by knife surrender campaigns and we have introduced a permanent knife bin in Middlesbrough Police Station so that people can hand in weapons all year round.

Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire police, fire and crime commissioner, added: I understand that there will be concern at another increase, and we are taking action to ensure that more visible, local policing addresses any genuine increase in crime. The current recruitment for additional PCSOs, and future recruitment of 50 additional police officers will boost the presence of North Yorkshire Police on our streets."