PRIME Minister David Cameron has been asked to ensure South Yorkshire residents do not suffer under Government plans to launch a national police helicopter service, which would see the county lose its own dedicated chopper.
Denis MacShane, Rotherham MP, has written to the Mr Cameron urging him to ensure the current police helicopter coverage in the county is maintained when the new air service is launched.
He said the Prime Minister told the House of Commons last week he was ‘confident the helicopter coverage will be maintained’ when Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, raised the issue.
Under the plan, South Yorkshire would lose its dedicated helicopter and instead be served by choppers based in neighbouring West Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Humberside.
In his letter, Mr MacShane said residents found it ‘reassuring’ to have their own helicopter.
He said: “In the House of Commons last week my colleague, Mr Betts, asked you about the proposed cut to the South Yorkshire police service leading to Rotherham, as well as Sheffield and other areas covered by the South Yorkshire police, losing its current helicopter service.
“This helicopter currently over flies my constituency on a regular basis and I see it from my house in Rotherham.
“It is extremely reassuring to constituents and the helicopter has played a vital role in accidents, including drowning.
“It is seen as a vital element of the local police service. Therefore I and, I am sure, other South Yorkshire MPs were pleased when you assured Mr Betts last Wednesday in the House that ‘I am confident that helicopter coverage will be maintained’.
“I have been approached by constituents who are worried at this loss of an important police service to which they attach value.
“They do not believe, nor do I, that a helicopter based in Wakefield with a much larger coverage and flight area can provide anything like the service the current South Yorkshire-based police helicopter provides.
“Given your assurance in the House I hope you will give clear instructions to the Home Office that ‘helicopter coverage will be maintained’ over South Yorkshire on the present basis.
“Anything less will, I fear, be seen as a statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons as not being worth much.”