Wiltshire's joint helicopter wins battle to see out contract (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Wiltshire's joint helicopter wins battle to see out contract
Bosses at Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust are delighted that the joint police helicopter/air ambulance will be allowed to see out its current contract.
There were fears that the contract would be broken due to plans by the Home Office for police forces to share helicopters resulting in a reduction in the number of police helicopters in England and Wales.
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) had originally intended that Wiltshire police air operations be transferred from Devizes to Filton near Bristol from July next year, but after lobbying by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, Policing Minister Nick Herbert has agreed the Wiltshire helicopter contract can continue as it is until it expires in December 2014.
Richard Youens, chairman of Wiltshire Air Ambulance and who lives in Rushall, was relieved at the development and said he was keen to maintain the existing arrangements with the police as long as possible.
He said: “I would like to express my thanks on behalf of the charity for the support we have received from our local MPs who helped us with our representations to the authorities, in particular Claire Perry (Devizes) and Robert Buckland (South Swindon).
“I would also like to thank the Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, who was kind enough to hear us out and has taken our concerns into account.”
Wiltshire is different to most other police forces as its helicopter doubles up as an air ambulance. Most air ambulances operate their own helicopter.
Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Air Ambulance have been leading the way in this joint work for 21 years.
Mr Youens said: “All indications are that the police/air ambulance alliance is popular in the county and we are confident that we will still have some form of working relationship with Wiltshire Constabulary beyond December 2014.
"However, we recognise that from 2015 NPAS will impact on the way we do business, but whatever else may be in doubt over the longer term, the charity remains committed to providing an air ambulance service to the people of Wiltshire from the hangar we share with the police in Devizes.”
Chris Hoare, chairman of Wiltshire Police Authority, said the joint helicopter was one of the county’s “crown jewels.”
He said: “We are delighted that NPAS has now confirmed that the existing arrangements for operating Wiltshire’s police/air ambulance service can continue until the end of 2014.
“The existing contract is written in these terms but with the advent of NPAS there was a threat that this may be in jeopardy. We have been working closely with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Trust and fully supported the charity’s lobbying campaign with the Government which has proved so effective.”