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How many council workers does it take to change a light bulb?

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 20, 2011

  • Troublesome repair job: The lamppost at the corner of Fir Tree Close and Prestbury Road, Cheltenham

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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."


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  • Ms_Superstar  |  October 22 2011, 8:49PM

    Really, such fuss about ONE faulty lamp post! And it even got into the national press (well, one of Northcliffe's other scandal rags). The street lamps around Sherborne Place, in the town centre, haven't been working since July(a total of SEVEN lights not working for about 10 WEEKS!) I contacted the Highways back in August, and after several weeks of messing about - including a couple of days when I thought they'd cracked it because the area was lit up like a Christmas tree, they admitted there was indeed a fault and it would fixed by the 24th of October! This coming Monday in fact. Well, they've got three of the seven working (Lamp post number 10, the lamp on the side of St Faith's and a lamp post halfway along the street) but the lamp outside the Bangladeshi community centre and all three of the lamps in the car park are still out. The car park is the haunt of a rather unpleasant gang, and is quite unnerving at night even with the lights working. With the clocks going back next week, the lack of lighting will make it virtually unusable in the evening. I've raised the issue of the faulty lights with the Neighbourhood Watch as well as the Highways, and was advised to inform my local councillor. This I've done (Steve Jordan) and have not even had the courtesy of a reply.

  • Library_User  |  October 21 2011, 5:20PM

    As someone who has experienced the inconvenience of the much extended road closures in Worcester Street and Kingsholm Road, Gloucester for months now, and the associated disconnected phone lines which affected 1,300 homes for two weeks, I'm not too worried about a dud light bulb which inconvenienced nobody. Severn Trent, Morgan Sindall and British Telecom make the public sector look very efficient indeed.

  • tendency  |  October 21 2011, 4:16PM

    Just to say that most of the workers you see on the streets working "for the council" ( which council?) are employed and managed by private contractors and consultants. The Councils got rid of most of their productive staff years ago. Not saying that they were always efficient but just placing responsibility where it should lie.

  • Takeaway22  |  October 21 2011, 6:57AM

    The Sherbourne writes "There are many private companies that still throw their money down the drain. The only difference is we're not obliged to give money to them." - Correct, but when you do you will have to pay higher for their products and/or services.

  • elsmallo  |  October 20 2011, 11:58PM

    This is clearly the work of Albus Dumbledore. I have good information that the light, known as 'Lamppost 49' is actually the secret entrance to the hideout of the order of the Phoenix, and every time a 'muggle' council worker gets anywhere near it, they are hexed by the elderly wixard headmaster and sent away with confusing instructions for their co-workers. This is why we need to have a tougher policy on these wizards who come into our country to have their fun at the taxpayers' expense. I say: It's all right for you wizards with your magic healing powers, but we 'normal' people have to go to A&E when we bump into walls and things on a darkened street at night because of a faulty streetlamp. And you don't even pay any taxes which support the NHS, which doesn't sound very fair to me.

  • raidermanuk  |  October 20 2011, 10:56PM

    Kay_Powell "the complainant, is partially responsible" The "featured" lamppost is the picture is numbered 47. The offending post is numbered 49 and I guess (I can't really tell) this is over the road, maybe oposite Mr Dorans property rather than just "outside" it. The Daily Mail is running this story too http://tinyurl.com/5uobztq but with a different photo and a different lamppost. I doubt whether Mr Doran has any responsibility whatsoever for this.

  • raidermanuk  |  October 20 2011, 10:31PM

    For all the apologists, there are no circumstances which justify 12 visits (or more because Mr Doran may not have seen them all) to change one light bulb. Also, some visits may have been made by teams of men. Probably cost the tax payer £500 for one change. Can't you see the stupidity of it?

  • TheSherbourne  |  October 20 2011, 9:58PM

    Kay Powell writes: "If anyone thinks that only public bodies are inefficient, then I can tell them that I have worked for at least one large, private company that was very inefficient in its working practices." There are many private companies that still throw their money down the drain. The only difference is we're not obliged to give money to them.

  • Anon011  |  October 20 2011, 9:24PM

    So what exactly are you lot suggesting should be the solution to all this then? Should the county council equip all the guys who replace light bulbs with hedge trimmers? (presumably free hedge trimmers that cost nothing to run, and we all know that private sector electricians are always ready to do a bit of gardening if necessary!) Should they send out a fully qualified electrician who can deal with water damaged electrics every time a bulb needs to be replaced just in case? (again, presumably a free electrician). Should the police ignore residents' concerns over security (or, and I hate to labour a point, should they find a free policeman to send out?) Should the council stop looking for ways to save money on street lighting across the whole county if it causes a problem with one lamppost? Do any of you have even the remotest grip on reality? Sometimes things just happen like this and nobody is to blame. It's called real life, please try to get used to it.

  • Kay_Powell  |  October 20 2011, 3:56PM

    That line should have read: "Please don't start blaming health and safety or the nanny state."