National air cover service backed by Hampshire Police Authority

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CALLS for a National Police Air Service have won backing from Hampshire Police Authority.

Members yesterday gave their full support to the proposal, which would save Hampshire Constabulary £390,000.

If it is approved nationally, the number of police air support units would be cut from 31 to 23 at 20 bases across the country – with an additional three ‘spare’ aircraft.

The option preferred by chief constables would save police forces in England and Wales about £15.27m a year. It would also ensure all forces have access to air support 24 hours a day and increase the availability of aircraft by eight per cent.

Some staff jobs could be axed but the exact number of posts has not yet been agreed.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, who is aviation portfolio holder for the Association of Chief Police Officers and is heading the project, said: ‘This offer would mean we have air support 24 hours a day in less than 20 minutes to every part of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as operationally seen and [it] would be delivered at a lower cost than we are currently paying.’

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is serviced by helicopters at RAF Odiham near Hook and Shoreham, West Sussex. Under a national service it would be served by one aircraft at Bournemouth Airport and a second at Dunsfold, Surrey. The force has already saved cash by merging its air support with Surrey and Sussex.