Police have reacted with fury after being told to step up their response to knife crime by the home secretary, a day after MPs warned that cuts could have “dire consequences for public safety”.

Sajid Javid called the Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick after five people were stabbed to death in the space of a week in London.

The Home Office said he told the Commissioner: “We must act together, and I stand with you as we face this challenge.

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“Alongside tough law enforcement we will not let up on our work to prevent young people getting drawn into knife crime in the first place.

“But we must step up the police response to get the situation under control so that these measures have time to work.”

The home secretary made clear that police must make full use of their powers, including targeted stop and search, the department said.

His comments sparked outrage just days after MPs said police across England and Wales were struggling to respond to crime because of government cuts.  

And Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told politicians to “leave police alone and let us do our jobs”.

He told The Independent: “We are not the cause of all these deaths, we are doing our utmost to deter them.

Cressida Dick: ‘Naive’ to think cuts to police haven’t had impact on rising crime

“Violence can’t be tackled purely by police – we turn up when someone has been killed or seriously injured and there’s an awful lot that happens before that point.”

Echoing comments made by senior police officers warning of “Wild West” violence at a conference last week, he pointed to the loss of social clubs and youth centres hit by budget cuts. 

“What do the youth now do?” Mr Marsh asked. “We’ve created a society where I’ve never seen this sort of ruthlessness that’s taking place.”

He called on the government to give funding to allow “more bobbies on the beat” to engage with local communities and ensure that people do not feel they can “walk round with 3ft knives with impunity”.

Mr Marsh accused the government of “washing its hands” of wider societal problems and pushing responsibility on police.

Mr Javid, who is currently in the US for talks with social media companies about online child abuse, told Ms Dick he was “deeply worried” by the level of violent crime on the streets and reiterated his commitment to focus on driving it down, the Home Office said.

He also stressed his determination to make sure police have the powers and tools they need and said he would do everything within his power to support them, the department added.

Home Office figures released last month revealed that forces in England and Wales conducted 282,248 stops and searches in the 12 months to March this year – the lowest number since current data collection started 17 years ago.

A sharp decline started in 2014, when Theresa May introduced reforms to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted way following criticism of its disproportionate use against black people.

Mr Javid has since backed a boost in the use of the powers and the government has proposed extending them to target acid, drones and laser pointers.

Mr Marsh said police were using stop and search in a “legal and proportionate way” and added: “It is a good tool but it’s not a panacea … it’s not the answer to what is happening across the whole of the UK.”

A report released by the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday found that funding for policing was down by almost one-fifth since 2010-11, and there are nearly one-fifth fewer officers and staff in England and Wales.

As well as slashes to central funding, police forces have now been told that they may have to plug a £600m funding shortfall caused by proposed pension changes out of existing budgets.

Ministers have been warned that up to 10,000 officers’ jobs could be cut as a result of the change, taking numbers to a record low.

In October, the Home Affairs Committee warned of “dire consequences for public safety and criminal justice” if the government does not increase police funding and change the way it is divided up.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Police have the powers but what they don’t have is the resources.

“Police chiefs, rank and file officers and even Home Office officials are telling the Home Secretary the problem is cuts to the police which have hampered their ability to tackle the surge in violence. Cuts he voted for time and time again.

Home secretary Sajid Javid has vowed to fight for more police funding from the Treasury (PA)

“Evidence based stop and search is an important tool in fighting crime but random stops poison police community relations.

“The government must urgently bring forward the resources to increase police officer numbers by 10,000 to keep our communities safe.”

Mr Javid has vowed to fight for more police funding in next month’s financial settlement and a government wide-spending review, saying the chancellor “is listening”.

Knife crime currently stands at a record level in England and Wales, and so far in London this year there have been 119 homicides.

A third of the cases involve victims aged 16 to 24, while 20 were teenagers. The total is nearing that seen for the whole of last year.

The mayor of London has said it could take a generation to turn the tide on violent crime in the capital.

Sadiq Khan said government cuts had “made the complex causes of violent crime far worse and left the Met with one hand tied behind their back”.

He added: “Ms May’s clampdown on spending has forced the Met to make £1bn of cuts since 2010 – leaving them with no choice but to take thousands of police and community support officers off the street.

“This is on top of the deep cuts by this government to preventative and youth services which help keen young people away from crime … the government need to fully reverse the cuts they have made to the Met police since 2010.”