IT'S an age old question, uttered in jest for years.
And in the case of one Cheltenham lamppost, the answer is apparently "at least 12".
Puzzled pensioner Jack Doran watched in amazement as a succession of council workers, contractors and even a police officer showed up to help fix the light outside his home in Prestbury Road. "It just seemed a bit odd that they kept coming and going like that," said the 74-year-old
"I'd see somebody arrive and they would take a look, appear to do something, then leave again without it being fixed.
"There were at least 12 visits in all that I counted and I just started to wonder what on earth had gone wrong because it was apparently only one bulb.
"It's ridiculous, such a waste of time. It's symptomatic of the sort of thing that seems to happen in local government, but wouldn't in the private sector."
The light, known as Lamppost 49, was visited numerous times over a six-week period.
Mr Doran reported it broken through Gloucestershire County Council's website on August 15 and a team was sent out to fix it shortly after. However, because the base of the lamppost was surrounded by a hedge, workers could not get to the junction box.
That meant Cheltenham Borough Council's parks department had to be called out to cut back the foliage and make the wires accessible.
The county then sent out another team, complete with cherry picker, to repair the light, only to be thwarted again, this time by water leaking into the light.
In the meantime, a police officer visited the road to check on the situation after a resident called Gloucestershire Constabulary to warn that the darkened street could create a security risk.
Then the county discovered the lamp was also part of an energy-use monitoring project, which meant the old fashioned bulb had to be replaced with a similar one, rather than a newer standard issue.
A worker borrowed one from a nearby lamppost and came back later for another go.
But then the plucky council staff's efforts were dashed again when they found the fuse required as part of the project was causing the bulb to blow.
Finally, more than six weeks after the first report, the fuse was changed and the light was working again on September 30.
Ken Pitt, the county council's street lighting team manager, said: "We appreciate that this repair has taken longer than usual. However, it wasn't straightforward and needed several visits to ensure we sorted it out properly."
Mr Pitt added that the energy research project, which was taking place in conjunction with an electricity company, made the repairs more complicated.
County councillor David Prince (PAB, Oakley, Pittville and Prestbury) said: "We can't knock the council for this because they've got the job done and haven't walked away from it. I understand that the council had more problems fixing it than they first thought."