Rising knife crime could be linked to severe youth service cuts in England, new research announced by a Croydon MP suggests.

Analysis by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime, chaired by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, has found areas suffering the largest cuts have seen bigger increases in knife crime, with some local authorities' spending slashed by up to 91% over three years.

The APPG obtained figures on youth service budgets using freedom of information requests sent to 154 local authorities in England, which 106 replied to.

Chair of the APPG, Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, said: "We cannot hope to turn around the knife crime epidemic if we don't invest in our young people.

"Every time I speak to young people they say the same thing: they need more positive activities, safe spaces to spend time with friends and programmes to help them grow and develop.

"Our figures show how in areas where support for young people has been cut most, they are more at risk of violence. Youth services cannot be a 'nice to have'. Our children's safety must be our number one priority."

The data shows that the average council has slashed real-terms spending on youth services - which funds things such as youth clubs and youth workers - by 40% between the years 2014/15 and 2017/18.

The City of Wolverhampton and the City of Westminster were the worst hit, with youth services cut by 91%, followed by Cambridgeshire County Council and Wokingham Borough Council, with cuts of 88% and 81% respectively, according to the figures.

It is not possible to directly compare the geographical areas covered by police forces and local authority boundaries.

But the APPG analysis suggests forces serving areas with the biggest cuts, such as West Midlands Police, the Metropolitan Police, Cambridgeshire Police, and Thames Valley Police, have also seen some of the highest increases in knife crime.

Knife crime reached a record level last year in England and Wales with 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp objects recorded by police in 2018.

Last week 15-year-old Tashaun Aird was stabbed to death and a 16-year-old boy injured after a fracas with another group of youths in a park in east London.

The figures were released ahead of a meeting in Parliament on Tuesday, where young people across the country will discuss the effect of cuts to youth services in their area.

Last week Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick credited a 30% increase in stop and searches for a drop in violent crime in the capital over the past 12 months.

Commenting on the research, a Government spokesman said: "Knife crime destroys lives and tears families apart and we are determined to tackle the root causes to end this cycle of violence.

"There are a range of factors driving increases in this complex crime, including changes to the drugs market.

"Our Serious Violence Strategy places a greater emphasis on early intervention to steer young people away from violent crime by offering positive choices, alongside equipping police with the powers and resource they need to keep communities safe from this threat.

"We are putting more than £200 million into community projects, including Redthread and St Giles Trust, and are consulting on a vital public health duty which will see public bodies work together more effectively to prevent serious violence."