NEW figures have revealed that knife crime in Lancashire has risen by half over five years.

The latest Home Office figures, which show that in the 12 months to September 2018 there were 923 incidents involving blades, have shocked politicians across the county.

This was a 49 per cent increase from the year to 2013 when 618 knife crimes were recorded by Lancashire police.

Although the rise was lower than in some similar-size forces the actual number of offences was one of the highest.

Kent saw an 81 per cent rise to 873, Hampshire a 147 per cent increase to 834, and Essex a 103 per cent hike to 541.

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw branded the county rise ‘shocking’, Lancashire County Council’s Tory leader Geoff Driver described it as ‘extremely concerning’ and Pendle MP and government minister Andrew Stephenson said it was ‘very alarming.”

The new figures come as worry about knife crime nationally, particularly in London and other big cities, is growing.

At the weekend, Asda announced it would stop selling single kitchen knives in stores by April.

Recent high-profile incidents in Lancashire include a gang armed with blades arriving at Leyland’s Runshaw College, the fatal stabbing of Tarro ‘Taz’ Grogan in Roe Lee in Blackburn in October and the knifing in the hand of Burnley job centre worker Cameron Ali in the same month.

Mr Grunshaw said: “These statistics on the increase of knife crime are shocking.

"It is clear that cuts across the public sector are having significant consequences. The police in Lancashire are overstretched.”

He called for investment in education, youth services and social care.

This was echoed by Blackburn with Darwen Council deputy leader, Cllr Andy Kay who said: “I am concerned at these figures but we are seeing the effects of austerity and cuts in youth services.”

Mr Stephenson said: “It is very alarming to see the national epidemic in knife crime reflected in Lancashire but there is no direct link between it and police numbers. We need research and a joined up approach.”

Cllr Driver said: “These statistic are extremely concerning but there is no easy solution.”

Fellow Police and Crime Panel member and Burnley councillor Tony Martin said: “These figures are shocking. We need more visible policing.”