Drug seizures spiked in Essex last year, with police recording their largest haul for seven years.

The Police Federation of England and Wales warned that a "proliferation of illicit drugs on the streets of the UK" is being used to fund serious crime, following the first rise in seizures across the two countries for seven years.

Essex Police recorded 3,620 drug seizures in 2018-19, according to figures released by the Home Office.

That was a rise of 17% compared to the previous year , and the highest number since 2011-12 when there were 3,655.

The figures mean there were 1,975 seizures for every million residents, lower than the rate of 2,432 per million across England and Wales.

Class A drugs – those considered to be the most harmful, such as heroin, cocaine and crack – accounted for 19% of seizures last year.

The most frequently seized drug was cannabis (2,992) followed by cocaine (450).

Across England and Wales, the number of drug seizures increased for the first time since 2011-12.

Police and border forces recorded 153,000 seizures, an increase of more than 16,000 in one year, but still far lower than the peak of 241,000 seen in 2008-09.

Labour MP Jeff Smith, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform, said the figures were "little reason to celebrate".

"The illicit drugs market is resilient to the extent that a major bust is only likely to disrupt supply for a matter of hours," he said.

"With UK drugs-related death figures the highest on record, the Government’s approach to drugs policy is doing nothing to avert the public health crisis we face.

"The real priority should be to focus on education and to bring in harm-reduction measures that will save lives."

Simon Kempton, operational policing lead for the Police Federation, said the figures demonstrate "the importance of all law enforcement agencies in the UK working in a joined up way" to tackle organised crime.

He added: "These figures also reflect the huge amount of drugs which are available, as both prices and purity of drugs available on the street don’t seem to have been affected.

"This is a concern which underlines how there is a proliferation of illicit drugs on the streets of the UK, all of which goes to fund serious organised crime."