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Wrangling set to continue
Attempts by bosses at the Great Western Ambulance Service to offer assurances about the future of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance has only succeeded in creating more confusion.
The current lease on the joint Wiltshire Police helicopter and Air Ambulance expires in December.
The police want to sign up for a further five years but GWAS is holding out for a shorter period.
Last Thursday at a board meeting of GWAS in Chippenham five members of a group of Wiltshire people, who want to take over the running of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance appeal from GWAS, asked what would happen when the contract expires in December.
Tim Lynch, chief executive of GWAS, said: "I can see no reason for any gap in the operation of the aircraft."
He said Wiltshire Police Authority was currently negotiating with Police Aviation Services (the provider of the helicopter) about equipment and flying hours.
He said: "There's absolutely no reason why Wiltshire Police Authority will not be able to sign up to a relevant contract."
Richard Youens, of Rushall and one of the campaigners, asked if GWAS was going to sign up for two or five years with the police.
Mr Lynch responded: "You are bringing in calendar periods that are completely irrelevant. We will support Wiltshire Police Authority at whatever they arrive at with Police Aviation Services."
Ossie Rawstorne, the clinical director at GWAS, was interviewed on BBC Radio Wiltshire later the same day.
When asked whether GWAS would sign up with the police helicopter for five years he said: "The five year lease would not be a barrier to us signing up with the police."
Following this the Gazette asked GWAS for clarification on whether GWAS would sign up with the police helicopter for five years.
An emailed statement from Mr Lynch last Friday said: "We are currently supporting Wiltshire Police Authority in their renegotiation of the lease of the aircraft - the future of Wiltshire Air Ambulance is secure."
When asked to be more specific, GWAS communications manager Richard Turner said on Monday: "GWAS is looking to sign a two year agreement - negotiations are ongoing and there is a willingness from all parties to reach a satisfactory agreement as soon as possible.
"The future of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance is secure."
A statement from Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Police Authority said: "The police authority currently has a contract with GWAS as the successor to the Wiltshire Ambulance Service. The authority is considering the renewal of this contract between the two public bodies. It is not yet, however, clear that GWAS are offering to contract on these terms.
"Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Police Authority are now exploring the legal and operational issues surrounding the new proposals.
"Our priority in this matter is to deliver a service that improves public safety, is operationally effective, cost effective and based on strong partnership."
GWAS director of operations Steve West said GWAS would wish to transfer the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal to an arms length body but said it was a "complex legal position."
n John and Sandra Phillips of Bowerhill have raised £13,000 for the appeal in memory of daughter, Michelle, who died in a car crash four years ago. They handed over a petition with more than 1,000 names.