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PM to Sadiq Khan: More could be done to fight knife crime in London

28 July 2021, 07:33 | Updated: 28 July 2021, 08:13

By Joe Cook

Boris Johnson has told LBC that he thinks more needs to be done to tackle knife crime in London.

Speaking exclusively with Nick Ferrari, the prime minister said he hoped to speak "quite soon" with Mr Khan about fighting knife crime, but added "there is more that could be done... and I would urge the mayor to do it."

In the first three months of 2021, knife crime killings in the capital rose 28 percent compared to the same period in 2020, with 17 teenagers losing their lives.

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"The issue for me is, it’s about taking responsibility," Mr Johnson said, drawing on his own time as mayor.

"When, if, if you remember, in 2008, when we came in, when I came in to the London Mayoralty, it was a pretty grim scene.

"And, there was nobody taking responsibility, personally, for what was happening."

Pressed by Nick, the PM refused to comment on whether Mr Khan and was working "in lock step" with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

But he added: "What I do want to say is... I want to work with the London Mayoralty to try to fix this problem because it, but it can be fixed and you need the twin track strategy.

"You need to be tough on the gangs, tough on the kids carrying knives, and I do think stop and search is part of that, but you also need to be tough on the reasons why they’re out there."

The comments come as Mr Johnson works to promote his new program to fight crime, announcing a new "Beating Crime Plan".

The plan would see an extension of stop and search powers, league tables to reduce 101 and 999 call answering times, and a £17 million package to persuade young people who go to A&E with a stab wound or have contact with police to stay away from violence.

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But the announcement risks being overshadowed by disagreements with the police over pay.

Officers who earn more than £24,000 are subject to a pay freeze this year, compared with NHS staff who will receive 3%, and firefighters and local government workers who will receive 1.5%.

Questioned by Nick on why the pay increase was so small it wouldn't pay for a Mars bar each day, the PM said: "No one would want to pay our fantastic police more than I would. We're just going through a tough time financially for government and I think most people do understand that."

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However the Police Federation have taken aim at the government, passing a motion of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Chairman John Apter delivered an open letter to Downing Street on Tuesday detailing his organisation's demands over pay and how its members felt "that they are taken for granted".

The federation chiefs also posed in front of a vehicle carrying a large banner displaying a photo of Ms Patel and the messages: "No Covid vaccine. No police pay rise. No confidence in Priti Patel. Police officers have given everything. Yet you've given us nothing. #FairPayForPolice."

A Home Office source described the billboard as a "cheap political stunt" and a "deeply unpleasant, nasty and personal attack" on Ms Patel.