The Home Office has been lacking a long-term, strategic approach to preventing violent crime, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
Vernon Coaker says serious violent crime accounts for 1% of all crime
It found local agencies led by the police were often given too little money and information to tackle the root causes of violence.
Some were more focused on tackling anti-social behaviour instead, it said.
The Home Office said a three-year action plan published earlier this week would help reduce serious violence.
Tim Burr, head of the NAO, said the rise of gun and knife crime was something that would deeply concern every community.
"To date, the Home Office has not had a long-term, strategic approach to tackling violent crime," he said.
Trouble in towns
To produce the report, auditors surveyed Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, which are made up of the police, fire brigade, local council and local NHS officials.
It found more than 70% of them had no written strategy on violence, such as alcohol-fuelled trouble in town centres.
A third lacked cash or suffered from the short-term nature of Home Office funding, and blamed this for preventing them working towards cutting violent crime, the report also showed.
Nearly half said the government's controversial Licensing Act, which introduced 24-hour drinking laws, was effective, while 13% dismissed it as ineffective. The rest were neutral.
The report suggested the partnerships should share information more readily.
It also said some partnerships were lacking analysis to help pinpoint the causes of violent crime.
Chairman of the Commons' all-party public accounts committee, Edward Leigh, said: "I recognise that the Home Office has raised the profile of domestic violence and drink-related crime and encouraged local action to deal with these problems.
"But, in relation to violent crime in general, the department has not been able to tackle endemic problems faced by local agencies: poor sharing of information and poor analysis of the information when it is shared."
'Failure on crime'
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said the NAO's report recognised success in tackling domestic violence and alcohol-related crime.
Serious violent crime accounted for 1% of all crime, but could devastate lives and raise levels of fear, he said.
He said that was why the government had published its Tackling Violence Action Plan to reduce all serious violence, including gun and knife crime, homicide and sexual and domestic violence, over the next three years.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne accused the government of "only now acknowledging the need for a more considered approach to tackling violent crime".
And shadow home secretary David Davis said the report illustrated the government's "continued failure on crime".