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South Yorkshire Police to keep force helicopter

image captionThe South Yorkshire Force is the first in the country to opt out of the National Police Air Service

South Yorkshire Police is to keep its own helicopter instead of signing up to a new national scheme.

South Yorkshire Police Authority announced it would opt out of the planned National Police Air Service which is due to launch in April 2012.

Opponents had warned the national scheme could mean a trebling of response times.

The decision makes South Yorkshire the first police force in England to opt out.

Charles Perryman, chairman of South Yorkshire Police Authority, said the decision was only made after a "long debate".

He said: "The National Police Air Service representatives were unable to assure us that we could get the level of cover we require for our communities.

"The balance of risk was that we were better off with our own helicopter based in South Yorkshire, so it could reach all parts of the county in a faster time than we would get from using neighbouring bases."

Neil Bowles, from the South Yorkshire Police Federation, said figures produced by the National Police Air Service "weren't convincing".

"They didn't take into account the capital costs of replacing the helicopter and I don't know whether they included the cost of our staff," he said.

South Yorkshire Police had earlier said the removal of the force's helicopter service would save £668,000 per year.

The police authority said it would now have to consider "implications to the budget" as a result of its decision to keep the force's own helicopter.

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