National Police Air Service planned
Published 26/10/2010 | 12:42
Police chiefs have announced proposals for a National Police Air Service that they say will save £15 million a year.
Under the austerity plans, the number of police helicopters and air bases will be slashed by a third across England and Wales.
However, it is claimed the measures will provide a more effective and "joined-up" air service, while simultaneously driving down costs.
There are currently 30 police air bases in England and Wales that serve 33 aircraft, costing forces £66 million a year.
Under the plans this will be cut to 20 bases serving 23 aircraft - shaving £15 million off the air support budget.
Rather than each force having its own helicopter patrolling its region, the new national service will be responsible for the whole of England and Wales and be operated from one central command centre.
There will also be a clear "user requirement" laid out, meaning cost-intensive flights will be approved only if they are necessary.
The ground-breaking proposals were put forward by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which has been working with the National Policing Improvement Agency.
Acpo president Sir Hugh Orde said: "This project is all about enhancing the service we already have for less money."
The project is already said to have the support of the majority of chief constables across England and Wales and is hoped to be officially rolled out in April 2012. However, it will be the separate police authorities, who currently own the air bases and aircraft, who decide whether the "borderless" air service goes ahead.