Future of Norfolk police helicopter operations under review

Elaine MaslinNorfolk Police is reviewing the operation of its helicopter amidst a bid to cut �15m off its budget and work more closely with Suffolk.In a statement released, the force revealed its current helicopter contract with Norwich airport-based Sterling Aviation, will end in March 2011.Elaine Maslin

Norfolk Police is reviewing the operation of its helicopter amidst a bid to cut �15m off its budget and work more closely with Suffolk.

In a statement, the force revealed its helicopter contract with Norwich airport-based Sterling Aviation would end in March 2011.

No decision has yet been made over who could be awarded the contract beyond that date and all operations were being looked at over its future, the statement says.

Options include awarding a contract for a dedicated Norfolk Police helicopter or collaborating with Suffolk Police, it adds.

According to the statement, the cost of staffing the helicopter in 2008-09 was �204,384 and �167,169 in the year 2009-10 to date, according to a Freedom of Information request. The statement did not include the cost of the contract with Sterling.

Suffolk Police owns its helicopter, based at Wattisham Airfield, near Stowmarket.

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Det Chief Supt Julian Blazeby, from Norfolk Police, said: "Nothing has been formally decided but Norfolk Constabulary is looking at all options for the future of our air support function.

"We are looking at alternative methods of providing that service because we're looking at saving money, as all public authorities are in the current economic climate.

"At the moment, we've got two air support bases and crews.

"If we can get that right in terms of a collaborative option or whether

it's a leasing option - and we're yet

to decide - then with that will

come some savings and that is important."

Last month, the force revealed it was looking to cut �15m off its budget over the next three years. It is also pursuing a potential merger with Suffolk Police.

A Home Office white paper published in December revealed plans to cut hundreds of millions of pounds from police budgets by reducing the police helicopter fleet by a fifth and overtime by �70m per year.

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