The National Crime Agency (NCA) opened for business today as the home secretary published the government’s strategy to ‘relentlessly pursue’ organised and serious crime. The agency replaces a number of existing crime-fighting bodies including the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, but will have significantly less funding.

Labour chairman of the Home Affairs select committee Keith Vaz has questioned whether the budget will be sufficient, as the organisations forming the agency have a combined budget of £812m, but the agency will have only £473.9m next year.

It is the third time since 1998 that the crime agency has been re-jigged. The Home Office said the NCA will provide a ‘national lead’ against organised crime.

It will tackle crime under four commands – organised crime, economic crime, border and policing and child exploitation and protection, alongside a National Cyber Crime Unit.

The Home Office estimate that more than 5,500 organised crime groups operate in the UK involving around 37,000 individuals and costing more than £24bn each year.

The organised crime strategy, announced today, uses the counter-terrorism framework to set out action that will be taken ‘at every opportunity’ to ‘relentlessly disrupt’ serious and organised criminals.

It focuses on preventing people from getting involved in organised crime, improving Britain’s protection against serious and organised criminality and ensuring communities, victims and witnesses are supported when serious and organised crimes occur.

Measures in the strategy include strengthened powers to attack and seize criminal assets; a crackdown on foreign organised criminals operating in this country; more aggressive use of serious crime prevention orders and travel restriction orders; and a cyber emergency response team to deal with the most serious cyber attacks, including cyber crime.

Announcing the strategy, Theresa May (pictured), the home secretary, said: ‘Organised crime is a threat to our national security so it needs a national response to turn the full force of the state against those behind the most serious crimes. For too long, too many organised criminals have been able to remain one step ahead. This new strategy will deliver the relentless disruption of organised criminals at every opportunity.’ 

Director general of the NCA Keith Bristow said the NCA will ‘provide leadership and national co-ordination to continuously disrupt organised criminals’ in support of the government’s strategy.

Labour dismissed the change as ‘re-branding exercise’. Shadow policing minister David Hanson questioned the level of funding and suggested the organisation is not strong enough to deal with the exponential growth of economic and online crime.