Lewisham mayor Damien Egan has slammed the Government’s latest knife crime initiative to brand chicken shop take away boxes with #knifefree as “wrong.”

The boxes will replace packaging in chains such as Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken and will be printed with real stories from young people who have chosen to stop carrying knives.

The campaign comes as the borough faces cuts to its youth services and police funding.

His comments join those of Labour MP David Lammy and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who have labelled the initiative “racist” and “offensive.”

Mayor Egan said: “It’s wrong for the government to spend money on gimmicks when youth services and police funding has been cut so deeply.

“Yesterday I visited a Youth First club funded by Lewisham Council. With our support, Youth First run 14 youth centres across Lewisham, reaching over 11,000 young people. I am proud that we provide so many Lewisham children, from across our community, a safe space to play and learn.

“Tory austerity has meant that funding for youth services in Lewisham has been cut by over £1.3 million since 2010, and our budget has been cut by 63% overall. Alongside the chronic underfunding of local government services, these cuts increase poverty and inequality and lead to the rise in knife crime that we have seen across the country.

“To tackle knife crime and youth violence, the government urgently need to reinvest in local government instead of spending money on gimmicks,” he added.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told the Independent:"These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.

“The government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets,” he said.