A report on the National Police Air Service (NPAS) published today has highlighted a "catalogue of failures" and "justifies the campaign to protect the precious Dyfed Powys helicopter" – that was the message from Jonathan Edwards MP who led the campaign, in conjunction with local newspapers, against losing the dedicated police helicopter.
Dyfed Powys Police was the first force to have a police helicopter. The former Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner sold off the asset and joined the centralised National Police Air Service in 2015 – a move Jonathan Edwards warned would negatively affect the service provided to local residents.
The report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary describes the service as "financially unsustainable" and said that flying hours had nearly halved despite the cost of flight hours more than doubling since 2009. The report said the service needed "urgent reform".
Dyfed-Powys, the report says, saw the second slowest response time throughout Wales and England, with the average time to respond taking 57 minutes and 42 seconds.
Jonathan Edwards MP said the report justifies the campaign he and his Plaid Cymru colleagues led to protect the service. He went on to slam the British Government's centralisation agenda stating it was another reason to devolve policing to Wales. He added that Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he personally wrote to as Home Secretary during the time of the campaign, "should hang her head in shame."
Assembly Member Adam Price said the report was "damning" and asked how many times Wales needed to lose a service before other political parties joined Plaid Cymru in "demanding we take control of our own affairs."
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards said:
"Along with thousands of Dyfed Powys residents, I warned that the plans of the Tory British Government and former Tory Police Commissioner to sell off our dedicated asset and centralise the service in England would lead to a diminished service locally.
"There is no glory in being proven right – just a genuine feeling of disappointment and extreme anger that our sincere and very real concerns have been realised.
"The report reveals a catalogue of failures with the service, and justifies our campaign to protect the precious dedicated helicopter we had.
"The case for devolving responsibility for policing to Wales has never been stronger. We have already shown that doing so would see an additional £25million per year for our forces and, of course, it would allow Welsh forces to stop this centralisation of services which has so epically failed us.
"Members of the British Government, including Prime Minister Theresa May whom I personally wrote to about the helicopter during her time as Home Secretary, should hang their heads in shame."
Assembly Member Adam Price added:
"Today's report is damning. The centralised service is not fit for purpose. It's financially unsustainable. Flying hours have reduced and it takes almost an hour to get to us.
"Despite the clear failures of the helicopter service, Dyfed Powys residents are fortunate to have a team of dedicated police officers and leaders which ensures they have the best possible support.
"But we have to question how many services Westminster needs to take away from Wales before other political parties join Plaid Cymru in demanding that we take control of our own affairs."