- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
ASSEMBLY Members this week debated the future of the Dyfed-Powys X99 police helicopter.
Under money-saving proposals drawn up by the National Police Air Service (NPAS), Pembrey helicopter base is scheduled to close in January 2016, leaving the largest policing area in England and Wales without direct aerial support.
Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (7 July), Joyce Watson AM called on Conservative members to lobby the UK Government and Dyfed-Powys police commissioner to save the service.
The Labour Mid and West AM said:
“Three years ago, the coalition Government said that pooling police helicopters would be, I quote, ‘more effective and efficient’. They promised that the vast majority of the areas would have helicopter support within 20 minutes for a priority call. Tomorrow, George Osborne delivers his budget. No doubt, we’ll hear more of the same: effective and efficient cuts—not just tax credit cuts and housing benefit, but cuts biting down into the bones of the public sector like this does.
“There is nothing effective about shutting Pembrey or scrapping the life-saving X99. There is nothing efficient about abandoning the largest police force area in England and Wales. I am encouraged that Russell George, Paul Davies and Angela Burns have signed the Assembly’s statement of opinion, and I urge them to stand up for the communities that they represent and oppose their Government’s cuts. I urge them also to scrutinise the role of their Conservative colleague Christopher Salmon, the police commissioner, who just a few months ago was claiming he had secured the future of the helicopter service.”
Thirteen AMs from the four parties represented at the Assembly have signed a statement calling on the Welsh Government to put pressure on the UK Government to overturn the decision. The Assembly statement of opinion reads:
The National Assembly for Wales:
Notes the invaluable service provided by the Dyfed-Powys police helicopter based at Pembrey, Carmarthenshire and recognises the crucial role it plays in responding to rural emergencies;
Opposes the proposed cut to the Pembrey helicopter base and its relocation elsewhere in the UK; and
Calls on the Welsh Government to urge the Home Secretary to put public safety first and keep the Dyfed-Powys police helicopter in operation.
In the course of Tuesday’s debate, it was revealed that the X99 made 78 flights – three flights per week – in the period from 1 January to 8 June.
In 2010, at a cost to the public of £1.5 million, Dyfed-Powys Police relocated the helicopter from Carmarthen to the purpose-built Pembrey facility.
In April 2012 the Home Office mandated that police air support would be provided by a single national service. The National Police Air Service (NPAS) plans to reduce the number of helicopter bases in England and Wales from 23 to 15.
Dyfed-Powys Police is responsible for the largest policing area in England and Wales, covering more than 4,000 square miles. This includes two national parks, long stretches of coastline, large areas of agricultural land, forests and remote, mountainous terrain, as well as towns and urban areas.