Friday, 14 October 2011

The latest Tory police cuts - this time to the Sussex Police helicopter

Yesterday's meeting of the Sussex Police Authority discussed a crackpot scheme to cut the number of police helicopters by a third, nationalise the police air support role - and transfer control of the Sussex Police helicopter from Lewes to Leeds, in a move that would mean it would take 15 minutes to get to Brighton - and more like half an hour to reach Eastbourne or Hastings.

It would remove operational control from our local police to a national unit run from West Yorkshire - meaning it would be that much harder to get the Sussex Police helicopter to work with, for example, the Sussex Air Ambulance, or to protect the local coastline from illegal fishing methods - but it would save a few bob: as much as £800,000 a year.

It's hardly a surprise that this Government wants to erode local policing by replacing as much of it as possible with national structures, and it's hardly surprising the force is interested in doing so where there are cash savings to be had - after all, they face the near-impossible job of keeping Sussex safe in the face of £50 cuts over the next three years.

But I was a little surprised that debate yesterday focussed on where nationally-controlled air bases were located, and that I was the only member of the police authority to vote against the scheme and to express the view that this is in principle a bad idea driven by the need to make cash savings, not to improve policing.

I had - wrongly it transpires - imagined that Sussex Police Authority was firmly in favour of retaining control of all aspects of Sussex policing in the county. Looks like defending local policing from Tory cuts is a job that's being left to the Greens.

If you're interested, the whole debate is available to watch here.

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