Wales

Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter could be scrapped in 2014

A police helicopter (generic)
Image caption There are currently 30 police air bases in Wales and England

The Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter could be scrapped in 2014 under plans to order police forces to share resources.

The UK government proposes a National Police Air Service (NPAS), which would cut helicopter numbers in England and Wales by a third.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the Dyfed-Powys helicopter would remain in service for the next two years.

But Dyfed-Powys Police Authority has raised concerns.

Acpo said a trial of a fixed-wing aircraft would take place at a base in south Wales over the next two years.

Plans for an NPAS in Wales and England first emerged in 2010, and it will compel forces to collaborate for the first time.

Wales would be served by bases in Rhuddlan in Denbighshire and St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Police helicopter support could be cut by a third to 22 bases serving 24 aircraft and three reserves, saving £15m while providing coverage every day.

But Dyfed-Powys Police Authority has raised concerns about the effectiveness of an NPAS in such a rural area.

A spokesperson said: "As confirmed previously, Dyfed-Powys Police chief officers have formally raised concerns in terms of the amount of coverage the proposed structures of the NPAS would provide to such a rural area, and the impact of the proposals on the organisation as the police authority have recently invested £1.52m in a new state of the art air support base in Pembrey.

"These figures clearly demonstrate the operational importance and value of the helicopter in our force area especially in situations where a life could be at risk."

The authority said it was seeking reassurances from the UK government that the NPAS would not reduce services to the area.

'Grounded'

The UK government's policing minister Nick Herbert said: "The plan has the full support of Acpo and will give all forces access to helicopter support 24 hours a day, 365 days year - in contrast to the current system which sees some force helicopters grounded for days a time while they are being repaired."

He said if police leaders concluded this was the way forward, he "hoped and expected" police authorities would rapidly endorse the proposals.

The Dyfed-Powys Police helicopter is on call 12 hours a day, apart from bank holidays when it is available for eight hours.

Acpo said the helicopter would remain in service for the next two years.

A fixed-wing trial would happen alongside this at a base in south Wales.

But Acpo said no decisions had been made yet about what would happen after 2014.

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