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Suffolk: Police helicopter deal a ‘terrible waste of money’

PUBLISHED: 08:40 20 June 2014

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore

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The value of retaining a police helicopter for Suffolk has been brought into question after it was revealed that the constabulary is paying double the rate it actual uses the service.

In the last year, Suffolk Constabulary paid £800,000 for air support to the National Police Air Service (NPAS), but the force helicopter flew half its allocated flying hours.

Suffolk’s police crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, called the current arrangement a “terrible waste of money” and insisted the constabulary push for a change in the way costs are contributed to the national service, which has provided centralised air support since 2012, before which forces operated their own helicopters.

At a meeting of Suffolk’s accountability and performance panel, at police HQ in Martlesham Heath this week, assistant chief officer Phillip Clayton said the past year had been largely positive for the budget, with more savings delivered than required.

But Mr Clayton admitted that any areas of concern would need to be addressed in order to continue in the same vein.

Mr Clayton called the current sir support contract “inequitable” and said he would strongly support pushing for a change in the way costs are contributed towards managing the service provided by the NPAS.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to pay for something on an equitable basis if it’s done nationally,” he said.

The NPAS was brought in with the aim of cutting £15m from police budgets.

All forces were asked to contribute towards the costs of managing the service, with flight hours allocated to each force based on historic use of their helicopter with their provider at the time.

Suffolk was consequently allocated 600 hours - an amount that, over the last two years, has proved to be more than required.

Mr Passmore said: “It is essential to have air support for certain operations, but it comes at a cost that we are not in a position to afford.

“I’m not prepared to use Suffolk taxpayers’ money like that - full stop.

“It’s a terrible waste of money and I’m not prepared to put up with it.”

Norfolk and Suffolk paid a combined total of £1.16m between April 2013 and April 2014.

Suffolk contributed £800,000 and was budgeted for 600 hours of air support compared to Norfolk’s 220 hours, despite being the smaller force.

By March this year, Suffolk had used just over half its allocation but had been able transfer a portion of its hours to Norfolk, retrieving £39,000 and taking down its annual contribution to £761,000 compared to Norfolk’s £399,000.

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