WILTSHIRE’S air ambulance will stay in the air with or without support from the police, the boss of the air ambulance charity has vowed.

The Association of Chief Police Officers announced cost-cutting measures last week that would see the number of police helicopters in England and Wales reduced by a third to save money.

The proposals would mean Wiltshire Police sharing a helicopter with forces in Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire and for it to be based at RAF Colerne.

Wiltshire is unusual in that it has a combined air ambulance and police helicopter service and the current contract runs until the end of 2014.

Wiltshire Police Authority chairman Christopher Hoare has said police are committed to retaining the service until then and no final decisions have been taken.

This week David Philpott, chairman of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal, said: “My information is that Wiltshire Constabulary will be staying in the contract with Great Western Ambulance Service for the next four years and not relocating the helicopter to Colerne and if that is the case the constabulary should be congratulated.

“We have to plan for what I consider is the inevitable, which is after 2014 there will be a stand-alone air ambulance for Wiltshire but this gives us plenty of time to gear up our fundraising efforts.”

The running cost of the joint helicopter is £1.3 million a year, with the police paying £800,000 and the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal charity contributing £500,000, which includes paying the wages of the paramedics.

Mr Philpott said a stand-alone air ambulance would cost between £1.5million to £2million a year to run.

He said: “It is a big ask for the people of Wiltshire to increase fund-raising by more than 200 per cent but it’s been done elsewhere.”

Wiltshire’s police helicopter and air ambulance is one of only three such joint aircraft in the country and is one of only two air ambulances that can fly at night due to the specialist police equipment on board.