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Suffolk: Police spend £1m a year on helicopter but spend is below budget

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 December 2012

Police helicopter

Police helicopter

Archant

KEEPING the police helicopter flying over Suffolk costs the taxpayer more than £1million each year, we can reveal.

According to figures released by Suffolk Constabulary, the helicopter has taken a £3.53m bite out of the force’s budget over the past three years.

Police bosses, who say the aircraft plays a valuable role, said they work on the basis that each hour in the helicopter costs about £1,750.

The figures, which cover the cost of the premises, fuel, maintenance and staffing, were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

They also reveal that from January this year to October, the police helicopter flew 822 hours, with the longest flight being the search for a missing person.

In 2011 the helicopter flew for 696 hours, down slightly on the 735 hours flown in 2010.

Since April 2011, the helicopter has provided air support to Norfolk and since April 2012 has also covered Cambridgeshire and north Essex. A spokesman said that although flying times this year have been “noticeably higher”, money has been saved because of the closure of helicopter bases in Norwich and Wyten.

He added: “The fixed costs of keeping a helicopter are a significant proportion of the annual costs, therefore the more use it gets, the less each flying hour costs.”

The actual length of the longest flights, which included “monitoring public order at a march”, were not released to protect details of the aircraft’s “tactical flight range”.

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary, who said the force had seen an overall reduction in expenditure last year, due to Norfolk Police buying into the services, said the spend on the helicopter was £44,000 under budget in 2011-12.

In 2010-11, the cost of the helicopter was £81,000 under budget. Suffolk was one of the first forces to join the national scheme for air support and added that by the end of January 2015, helicopters would only be flying from 20 strategic bases throughout the country.

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