86 per cent of January's air support requests were not honoured
Plaid Cymru issues blistering attack on Police Commissioner as it reveals air support has been REFUSED.
The shocking truth behind the lack of police helicopter coverage in Dyfed Powys has been revealed this week as Plaid Cymru exposes how the new centralised service is not delivering for local residents or for the police force.
Last year the Police and Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon, signed up the local police force to a centralised National Police Air Service (NPAS) – a move which saw the dedicated helicopter for Dyfed Powys scrapped on 1st January this year.
Commissioner Salmon had justified his support for a centralised service as a way to save money and to have more resources available to the force. He hailed the benefits of a 24 hour service despite Dyfed Powys only needing helicopter support 'after hours' just 13 times in four years.
A freedom of information request by Plaid Cymru this week has revealed that during the first month of the Commissioner's new service an overwhelming number of requests for air support have not been honoured or have been refused by NPAS.
Dyfed Powys Police requested air support 14 times during 1st January and 31st January. Just two of the 14 requests were honoured.
In a press statement last week (15th March) Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said there were three incidents which NPAS could not attend for "other reasons".
Information obtained by Plaid Cymru show three requests for air support were refused due to no assets being available, insufficient flying time to be able to attend and due to NPAS already being committed in Gwent.
In his statement on 15th March Mr Salmon also said: "Air cover is there 24 hours every day of the year where previously we had just 12 hours a day."
However the information obtained by Plaid Cymru has also exposed that despite the promise of a 24 hour service, five of the 6 requests made for air support between 8pm and 8am were not honoured.
The former Principal Crime and Intelligence Analyst for Dyfed Powys Police and Plaid Cymru's candidate for Police Commissioner in May's election, Dafydd Llywelyn, launched a blistering attack on Commissioner Salmon. He said the concerns raised by Plaid Cymru during the campaign led by Jonathan Edwards MP have been realised within weeks of our dedicated helicopter being scrapped.
Dafydd Llywelyn said:
"Let's be under no illusion – this revelation is damning. With the current air support service hailed by Police Commissioner Salmon, Dyfed Powys force and the residents it serves are receiving a worse service than the one we had before he took office.
"As Plaid Cymru warned throughout last year, our force and our communities are playing second-fiddle to the needs of more urban Wales. Now we have confirmation that resources have been refused to our force because they are either busy elsewhere or because it would take too long to get to us.
"In its first month 86 per cent of requests for air support were not honoured. 83 per cent of requests for air support after 8pm were not honoured. Christopher Salmon staked his reputation on a 24 hour service which we now know hardly exists.
"We're being told that some air support has been stood down because officers on the ground have resolved the situation. This suggests response times are increasing significantly. I'm also being told that front line officers know that air support is now less likely to be available and are not minded to put in requests. That is deeply worrying indeed.
"The information speaks for itself. By selling-off our dedicated helicopter and failing to oppose the centralisation agenda of his Conservative party colleagues, Christopher Salmon has failed the people of Dyfed Powys and their police force."
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards led the campaign to safeguard the dedicated police helicopter. Last week he received a Grassroots Diplomat Award nomination for his campaign. Commenting on the lack of air support he said:
"When it comes to police air support there is no joy whatsoever in being proved right. Every concern I raised in Parliament regarding resources not being available has been realised within the first four weeks of the service.
"For the Police Commissioner to issue a press statement last week claiming the air service was 'delivering' is an absolute disgrace. It was nothing more than an attempt to mask the abject failure and damning results of his party's centralisation agenda. He should make a public apology for his disingenuous statement.
"Christopher Salmon has presided over a catalogue of failures. If Dyfed Powys residents want a Police Commissioner that is going to stand up for their services they need to elect Dafydd Llywelyn on 5th May."
Current Commissioner Christopher Salmon has already agreed to sell-off the Dyfed Powys helicopter.
Plaid Cymru officials say they have since submitted a further request for information on police air support throughout the month of February, and will continue to seek information for every month in order to expose the record of failure of the new service agreed by Christopher Salmon.