SOUTH Yorkshire Police is set to keep its own helicopter after the force’s governing authority defeated proposals to join a new National Police Air Service.
Under the plans, the county would have lost its own dedicated chopper from 2013 - and would have had to rely on aircraft based in West Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Humberside.
But at a meeting of South Yorkshire Police Authority, members voted by a large majority not to join the national service, amid concerns over the cost of the scheme and the quality of the region’s cover.
Authority chairman Charles Perryman said joining the national service was ‘not right for South Yorkshire’.
“The helicopter strengthens the force’s ability to reduce crime, protect vulnerable people and reduce vehicle accidents - and the value of this cannot be underestimated,” he said.
Mr Perryman added response times would have increased from three-and-a-half minutes to up to 20 if South Yorkshire had joined the national scheme.
“With some of the types of incidents the helicopter attends, the time taken to arrive is critical,” he said.
Figures quoted for the cost of joining NPAS could have increased if more of the country’s 43 forces declined to back nationwide helicopter cover.
South Yorkshire is understood to be first force to confirm it will not be joining the service.
“It’s not in the best interests of the people of South Yorkshire,” Mr Perryman added.
South Yorkshire Police is dealing with budget cuts of £40m over four years.
Mr Perryman said additional savings will now have to be found in ‘low-risk areas’.
“The risk associated with losing the helicopter was greater than the additional cost to retain it,” he said.