Transparency needed on Cambs police helicopter mothballing

IN a press release from Cambridgeshire police, dated June 27, 2011, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hopkins states the intention to scrap the [Cambs police] helicopter to “save as much as �0.5million”.

Since no mention was made of whether the helicopter and on-board equipment was to be sold or put into mothballs, I wrote on August 5 to the police authority and chief constable, asking under the Freedom of Information Act for the figures that would have allowed them to arrive at this savings figure.

In their reply dated September 2, I was astonished to read that: “We do not hold this information. This is because there is no record within the constabulary of any intention to sell or mothball this asset at the present time.”

One may be forgiven for asking what is going on at police headquarters. The two documents are complete contradictions: it is impossible to arrive at a projected figure of savings of �0.5m without having taken into account the sale value or storage costs of the helicopter.

In view of this contradiction I wrote to the chief constable and chairman of the police authority on September 13 asking for urgent clarification, but they have not seen fit to reply.

I am given to understand that some senior police officers accuse us f ‘trial via the media’ and do not relish it, but what else can a taxpayer do when unambiguous information is not forthcoming when reasonable requests are made of them?

They have a duty to be clear and transparent, and we have right to know how they arrive at crucial decisions. They are public servants and would do well to remember that we pay their salaries.

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