Government to retreat from 'super' fraud strategy

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The Independent Online

The Government's much vaunted strategy to tackle fraud has been plunged into disarray, with plans to develop a super-body to share information across agencies being shelved.

Just six months after the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, trumpeted the launch of a national strategy to tackle fraud, plans to create a National Fraud Reporting Centre have been scrapped. It's believed that the plans are "dead in the water" leaving the Attorney General's strategy in tatters.

The centre's scrapping could be announced as early as this week when the beleaguered Lady Scotland speaks at the National Fraud Forum in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

"This is a funding issue," said a City source. "Nobody wants to pay for the centre so it has, in effect, been scrapped. This has been four years in the planning and is ending in nothing."

When it was first mooted in October 2005, the centre was described as a cornerstone of the strategy, enabling the dissemination, and collation of information between organisations.

It was due to open last year and a pilot test of the centre's hardware is thought to have proved successful. It's now believed that the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which with the centre was a "priority focus" for the strategy, is now likely to be reshaped.

The Treasury set aside £29m in 2008 to help pay for the Fraud Reporting Centre, the Intelligence Bureau and the implementation of a National Lead Police Force for Fraud. The City of London said in August that cases of financial fraud had surged by 72 per cent in the past year.

Steve Head, the chief of the City's economic crime directorate, said: "While the amounts of money we are dealing with are significant, it is a fraction of the amount of fraud that has taken place."

A spokesman for the Attorney General was unavailable for comment.