Police helicopter numbers to be cut

West Yorkshire Polcie helicopter
West Yorkshire Polcie helicopter

The Government wants to bring in a national police helicopter service.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert is announcing plans to replace each force’s helicopter with a national unit, saving £15 million.

The proposals wouid see the number of police helicopters and air bases across England and Wales slashed by a third.

There would still be a helicopter based in West Yorkshire.

Former chief constable of South Yorkshire Police Meredydd Hughes has claimed the densely populated city of Sheffield would suffer as the move would mean its nearest helicopters would be based in Derbyshire, Humberside and West Yorkshire.

But Mr Herbert says the National Police Air Service would provide forces with access to helicopters 24 hours a day, 365 days year, rather than a force’s helicopter being out of use for weeks for repairs.

“Chief officers of all forces in England and Wales have given their support to the proposal, as have the overwhelming majority of police authorities in principle,” he said. “But to get the full benefits, the commitment of the whole of the police service in England and Wales is needed.

“In exceptional cases of last resort, I am prepared to mandate arrangements where a small minority of authorities or forces creates a barrier to more efficient and effective policing. I am therefore announcing today that I intend to make an order requiring the police service to collaborate in the provision of air support.”

It is the first time the mandation powers, brought in under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, will be used.

There were 30 police air bases serving 32 aircraft, costing the 43 forces about £70 million a year, when the review of air support started in 2009. Under the plans this will be cut to 22 bases serving 22 aircraft - shaving £15 million off the air support budget.

Rather than each force having its own helicopter patrolling its region, the new national service will be responsible for the whole of England and Wales and be operated from one central command centre.