Theresa May is not listening to police concerns about knife violence on Britain’s streets, a former head of the Metropolitan Police has warned.
The Prime Minister is facing a mounting backlash for denying a link between dwindling officer numbers and a spate of fatal stabbings across the UK.
Recent killings have prompted warnings of a “national emergency” and sparked intense scrutiny of reductions in the size of the police workforce.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens told the BBC that Mrs May had not been listening to police forces’ concerns. “I don’t think she listens, quite frankly, to what she’s being told,” he said.
The ex-top cop’s remarks came after a man was knifed to death in Leyton, east London, on Wednesday evening.
His death follows a string of high-profile stabbings in recent days, including 17-year-olds Jodie Chesney and Yousef Makki, who were killed in separate incidents in London and Greater Manchester over the weekend.
In Birmingham, three teenagers died in the space of 12 days last month.
The number of officers in the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2009.
Mrs May, who was home secretary from 2010 to 2016, argued earlier this week that there was “no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers”.
On Wednesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledged that police resources were important in tackling knife violence after holding emergency talks with chief constables
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I think police resources are very important to deal with this. We’ve got to do everything we can.
“I’m absolutely committed to working with the police in doing this. We have to listen to them when they talk about resources.”
Senior Labour politicians, including police and crime commissioners, have written to the Prime Minister urging her to put 10,000 police officers back on the streets.
The joint letter, also signed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, said: “There is not a town or city across the UK which hasn’t been touched by the outbreak of serious youth violence.
It said nationwide there had been a 93% rise in children under 16 being stabbed since 2013, taking knife crime to “the highest level since records began”.
“This is a national crisis and it requires leadership from the top of government,” the letter added.
It called on the Prime Minister to “drop this dangerous delusion” that police cuts were not correlated with certain crimes.
Mrs May announced she would host a summit on knife crime and said the Government was putting more resources into policing.
But Mr Khan said “having a one-off knife summit by itself won’t solve this issue”
He told ITV’s Peston: “Of course I welcome any movement by the Prime Minister to address the issues that cause knife crime but I think a one-off summit may make great pictures, and may lead to one or two good soundbites, but by itself won’t be enough.”
He said the reasons for the increase in violent crime were “quite complex” and added: “What I’d like to see is a joined-up public health approach in dealing with this very serious issue.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the Prime Minister was trying to keep communities safe “on the cheap”.
He said: “Does the Prime Minister now regret cuts in police numbers and will she undertake that under this review they will be restored to the level they were formerly at?”
A proposed cash boost could see total police funding rise by nearly £1 billion in 2019/20, including money raised through council tax.
Asked whether the PM still believed there was no direct link between police numbers and violent crime, her official spokesman said: “Clearly resources and powers are important.
“We have just given the police more resources and more powers and we always listen to what the police are saying.
“But it’s hugely important that we don’t just treat this as a policing issue, that we do look across society at things such as changes in the drugs market and address issues like gang culture with children being groomed into this lifestyle and carrying knives, and we look at public health.”
Later this week, police chiefs will present ministers with details of the resources they need for a “surge” in capacity to combat the rise in violent crime.