IS it too much to ask that at least something – anything – funded by our taxes can be made fit for its intended purpose?

The other week a 67-year-old cyclist called Paul Thomas, pictured here, was left with three broken ribs and other injuries after crashing in Swindon. After waiting an hour for an ambulance he got a lift to the hospital with a highway patrol officer.

A South Western Ambulance Service spokesman said the delay was due to high demand. Checking back on the date in question, I don’t see any reports of major disasters. No floods, no pile-ups, no escaped lions, no lightning strikes.

That being the case – and maybe I’m going out on a limb, here – could it be that ambulance bosses are expecting too few staff to do too much work? Could it be that more crews are needed, so that people in agony with broken bones don’t have to put themselves at further risk in order to reach the damned hospital?

Figuring out those rising crime figures

CRIME figures are up, but none of us should let that worry us in the slightest.

Instead we should trust everything the relevant senior officials tell us, as they know best.

You may have heard that overall crime is up by 18.8 percent, public order offences are up by 153 percent and offences involving something called violence without injury are up by 72.5 percent.

I don’t know exactly what violence without injury covers. Perhaps it means assaults in which the victims manage to duck or the punch doesn’t connect as well as the attacker would have preferred.

Sexual offences have risen by 14.5 percent, by the way.

However, nobody should be alarmed, as the official line is that the newly-released figures indicate nothing more than improvements in the way crimes are recorded.

As the police and crime commissioner himself pointed out: “It is important to stress that these figures do not mean that crime in our area is up almost 19 percent.”

Or to put it another way, crime has been this much of a problem for an indeterminate period in the past. During that indeterminate period, I could have sworn we were told that our area was very safe indeed, and that groundless fears about crime were being stoked by naughty people in the media.

I must have mis-remembered, because if that’s what really happened it would mean not a single crime figure has been trustworthy for years – and that we’d all be well within our rights never to trust them again.

It would also mean that if crime figures went down at any point in the future, we wouldn’t know whether it meant criminals were being deterred or there was another glitch in recording procedures.

Still, whatever the figures, I believe the official assurances that we’re just as safe as we’ve ever been.

When crime figures go up, it often just means victims are more confident about reporting offences. When they go down, of course, it in no way indicates that more and more of us simply can’t be bothered reporting offences because we believe doing so is a waste of time.

Furthermore, swingeing cuts to the numbers of police officers and civilian personnel in no way affect the force’s effectiveness in tackling crime.

Nor does shutting down police stations.

Nor does having so few overstretched officers on patrol at any one time that they could probably all fit into a modest suburban living room with enough room left over for a game of Monopoly.

Nor does refusing to attend reports of burglar alarms unless the caller says there are burglars on the premises.

Nor does obliging shop owners to send in their own CCTV footage of thieves instead of having enough officers on the roster with enough time to go and collect them.

The only thing to fear is fear itself.

And now if you’ll excuse me I have to go and buy a bridge from some bloke I met in the pub the other night.

Then I’m going to look at some YouTube videos of kittens.

  • THE latest chapter in the Superfast Swindon internet saga has seen people in the Chiseldon area talk with Virgin about a fibre broadband service. One local who took part in the trial of the Superfast Swindon service described it as atrocious, and criticised not just signal strength but signal consistency. He added: “I’ve had no less than five engineering visi