South Yorkshire Police Authority continues helicopter cut fight

South Yorkshire Police helicopter South Yorkshire Police will have to use helicopters based in Derbyshire, West Yorkshire and Humberside

South Yorkshire Police Authority has sought legal advice to see if it can fight plans to scrap the county's helicopter.

The government want to introduce a National Police Air Service (NPAS) which would mean regional forces sharing helicopters.

The authority fears police response times would rise under the proposals.

The government said it was confident it could reach an agreement with South Yorkshire.

The police authority said while it was not opposed to the NPAS being introduced, it had concerns about the impact on response times in South Yorkshire.

It said it feared the loss of the helicopter would make it difficult to maintain an effective and resilient air support for the county.

Analysis

The rotor blades of Sierra Yankee nine-nine will soon stop turning.

When the Policing Minister Nick Herbert told South Yorkshire Police it must join the new National Police Air Service it meant its base, just off Sheffield Parkway, was marked for closure.

There has been very vocal local support for the distinctive blue and yellow helicopter. And while negotiations continue with ministers over exactly how the service might work in the future, taking legal advice is a clear sign the police authority plans to challenge what the government is telling it.

The police authority here is the only one in the country to oppose the new national service. It says response times would treble in some parts of South Yorkshire. The hope is that meetings with the government can persuade ministers that one of the country's biggest cities should have a dedicated helicopter.

The government claimed that the current response rate, which sees 97% of the population receive air support in 20 minutes, would not be affected.

The introduction of the national service would see the number of police air units across England and Wales cut from 32 to 22.

The Sheffield helicopter base would go and the force would share helicopters based in Wakefield, North Derbyshire and Humberside.

The change is expected to save £15m a year nationally.

Police Minister Nick Herbert said he would use his statutory powers to make police forces work together on the national helicopter service.

Legal advice has now been sought by South Yorkshire Police Authority to examine what, if any, options it has to challenge that.

Hampshire Chief Constable Alex Marshall, Association of Chief Police Officers lead for the National Police Air Service, said: "We are still in discussion with South Yorkshire Police Authority and are confident that we can reach an agreement and outcome that we are all happy with."

The police authority will consider the legal advice it has asked for at a meeting on 9 March.

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