Jonathan questions police helicopter deal after Westminster refuses to intervene

Jonathan Edwards says he has cause to scrutinise minutes of Police Air Service meetings

Questions need to be asked as to what exactly the Dyfed Powys Police Commissioner signed up to according to MP Jonathan Edwards after the Secretary of State for Wales avoided his Parliamentary question on the police helicopter last week.

The Plaid Cymru MP says he will now be seeking the minutes of the National Police Air Service (NPAS) Strategic Board meetings - of which Dyfed Powys Police Commissioner Christopher Salmon is a member – to scrutinise the recent discussions and decisions passed.

Jonathan Edwards was selected to question Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb on Wednesday. Mr Edwards asked that Mr Crabb meet with him to discuss the police helicopter announcement that will see the £2million state-of-the-art Pembrey base close on January 1st 2016. Mr Edwards also requested the Secretary of State seeks the involvement of the Home Secretary as the Minister responsible for policing.

Stephen Crabb MP, who represents a constituency in the Dyfed Powys police force area, avoided the question and it was left to Wales Office Minister, Alun Cairns MP, to respond on behalf of the Westminster government. The response, Jonathan Edwards says, has raised serious questions about what the Police Commissioner has agreed since the announcing the deal to save Pembrey in November.

The Minister congratulating the Commissioner for a deal that will see the helicopter scrapped is "quite suspect", Jonathan Edwards said.

Mr Edwards says he is now going after the minutes of the NPAS Strategic Board meetings, which usually meets quarterly, but met in December, January and February, to try an ascertain what proposals the Police Commissioner has subsequently signed up to.

As it stands, Mr Edwards said, he could reach no other conclusion than to say the residents of Dyfed Powys had been "completely let down".

Jonathan Edwards MP said:

"It's quite suspect that the Minister was quick to congratulate his Tory colleague on saving money, but made absolutely no mention to the reality that we will lose our police helicopter.

"The Police Commissioner announced just four months ago that he had secured the future of the helicopter and the Pembrey base, but NPAS has now reneged on that deal.

"That Ministers are now spinning this as a good news story leaves me highly suspicious and raises serious questions about what has been agreed in the last few months. Indeed the Minister’s response to my Parliamentary question suggests the Commissioner has fully signed up to the removal of the police helicopter from Pembrey.

“I believe there is cause to scrutinise the recent decisions reached by the NPAS Strategic Board – of which Mr Salmon is a member – and I have therefore requested minutes of those meetings.

"As it stands, I am unable to reach any other conclusion than to say, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Commissioner has completely let down the residents of Dyfed Powys. I can, however, assure residents that I do not intend to stop on the campaign to save our local helicopter.”

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  • Chris Howard
    followed this page 2015-03-18 10:42:02 +0000
  • Chris Howard
    commented 2015-03-18 10:31:33 +0000

    I am a former Dyfed Powys Police helicopter pilot. I’m concerned that we, the tax payers, are being led up the garden path blindfolded into a position where we will not have police helicopter cover.

    TIME – a crucial factor in police helicopter operations and one of the prime reasons for having a dedicated helicopter. Minutes can save lives, catch the crooks and give value for money.
    We are told by NPAS (National Police Air Service) who will close Pembrey (and effectively end our dedicated helicopter service) that ‘response times’ will not increase much when we come under their wing. This is complete fantasy and takes no account of the time taken to request, allocate, plan and execute a flight from a remote base by a crew who may never have heard of their destination, in a helicopter that is slower than the one we have now AND may have considerable trouble finding any fuel to get home!. Their times assume no headwind (I seem to have noticed a predominantly westerly flow in Wales), that a direct track can be flown (anyone noticed the military firing ranges along the coast?) AND that the helicopter at the nearest base will be available (with less police helicopters throughout the UK each one will be busier and there can be no guarantee it will be there when WE need it).

    Having 24 hour cover from remote bases will make virtually no difference to us. I can assure you that NO crew from outside of this area will even contemplate a flight (especially at night) in marginal weather, with no local knowledge and without fuel being available.

    MONEY – We (the tax payers) will be paying NPAS for helicopters by the hour. It takes over an hour (under ideal conditions) to fly from St. Athan (the nearest remote base) to, say, Haverfordwest and back again. With an endurance of 90-100 minutes they won’t be staying very long if they can’t get fuel.
    We will be paying more for helicopters to transit to/from the scene than we will to have them on scene. Value for money?

    THE FUTURE – police officers and the control room will soon realise that there’s no point in asking for a helicopter except in extreme circumstances – because by the time it turns up the incident will be over. The deterrent effect of our own helicopter will be lost, lives will be put at risk, criminals will take advantage of the lack of air cover and we will be subsidising police helicopter operations for the rest of UK.

    WHAT WE DON’T NEED – a fixed wing aircraft – they can’t replicate or replace the unique capabilities of our own helicopter.

    THE SOLUTION – keep our present helicopter – it would almost certainly cost less (AND PROVIDE FAR BETTER VALUE FOR MONEY) than the proposed NPAS service.
    Second best solution – insist that NPAS base a helicopter at Pembrey on a permanent basis.

    We, the public, need to make a lot more noise. By the end of this year we will have virtually no police helicopter operations in our area UNLESS the politicians act NOW.
    Please badger your MP, AM, councillor, sign Alun Lenny’s petition and do anything else you can to stop this travesty and waste of our money.

    Many years ago the case was made for our own helicopter – NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    Chris Howard

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