National developments in ‘fixed wing’ surveillance aircraft could potentially mean more regular sightings of the police helicopter in Dyfed Powys in the future.
That is the suspicion of the police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, who was speaking at a meeting of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.
He was responding to a question from independent panel member Professor Ian Roffe, who asked whether Dyfed-Powys Police was getting value for money and timely support from the National Police Air Service, given the money it pays in.
Current NPAS arrangements see air cover provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from two bases in Wales – one in the north and one in the south.
Previously, Dyfed Powys had its own force helicopter, based at Pembrey, which operated from 9am-9pm at a cost of in the region of £1.2million annually.
Mr Llywelyn said he was confident the force area was receiving air support when required, but spoke of national developments that could mean residents see the helicopter in service locally more often.
“There’s been a national drop in the use of the helicopter – a 20% reduction in the figures between 2016 and 2017,” he said.
“In recent weeks I’ve had a meeting with the temporary inspector that leads the operational activity of the helicopter based on the outskirts of Cardiff. They describe to me a position that’s changed considerably regarding the use of the helicopter.
“On a national basis there are fixed wing developments for more urban areas, not suitable for the topography of our area, and following that we should see the helicopter in Dyfed Powys perhaps more regularly.”
Mr Llywelyn also confirmed the funding he has committed to the police air service.
“This year we have paid roughly £250,000 for the air service and for the next financial year we will pay circa £200,000. In addition, the NPAS pays Dyfed Powys Police £50,000 a year for the lease of Pembrey air field as a forward operating base. So the net effect is that it costs the force approximately £150,000 – an efficiency saving compared to the old arrangements,” he said.
Members of the Panel were keen to hear of developments regarding the use of drones, in particular whether air base facilities at Withybush, Pembrey, Aberporth and Welshpool might be used for this kind of work.
Mr Llywelyn said that whilst the force does not currently have its own drone, it does work with partners including the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service on pre-planned operations, as well as working with colleagues in north Wales to explore possibilities for future use.
The Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is made of up of members nominated by the four councils in the force area: Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys; and at least two independent members. Carmarthenshire County Council is the lead authority for the panel.
The meetings are open to the press and public, and with the prior permission of the chair, people can ask questions or make a statement in relation to a matter being considered by the panel, with the exception of personnel matters.
Questions can also be submitted to the panel either in writing or via the website contact form.
Information about the panel, agendas, meeting dates, membership and news is available online at http://www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.org.uk/