THE saga of Dave the stray Park North cat continues.

Having been adopted by animal lover Gerry Taylor, he appears to have gone wandering again.

When he returns, the first order of business should be to fit him with one of those cat-cam collars – preferably one with a live video feed.

Then we’ll be able to find out what he’s up to.

It could be that he’s like the dog in that old kids’ TV show The Littlest Hobo, and that he travels the town in search of people to help and disasters to avert with his courage and resourcefulness.

It could be that he just finds the nearest billet with a decent rug and a ready supply of cat food.

My bet is on the latter.


THE people passing through our court system in recent days included a man called Christopher Williams.

This delightful human being already had two convictions for possessing indecent images of children when he walked into a Swindon shop and brandished a knife at the two women behind the counter.

He was on early release from a prison term at the time.

Demanding that they empty the till and hand him the cash, he threatened to stab them and to cut off their fingers.

Think about that for a while: You’re working in a shop, somebody comes in with a bladed weapon and threatens to inflict life-changing mutilation on you for no good reason whatsoever.

Williams was jailed for four years, which means he’ll be out in two.

He was told he was being sentenced on the basis that he didn’t intend to act on his threats.

I’m sure that’s an immense comfort to the women he threatened to partially dismember alive.

And remember, folks, we’re all safe and the fear of crime is far worse than crime itself…


MANY people are asking themselves: “Why haven’t we been given a vote on this whole Swindon borough parishing thingie?”

After all, handing over a raft of services to parish councils and slapping us with some dirty great extra bills is the biggest change of its kind since the late 1990s.

The answer to the conundrum, of course, is that we haven’t been given a vote because we’re all so silly and stubborn that we’d probably not vote in the way most of our politicians would like us to.

Democracy is all very well but only up to a point, and there are some things we should just leave to our wise councillors because they’re too complicated for ordinary people to understand.

Parishing is a good example, and so is the setting of councillors’ allowances. There are probably many more.

I completely believe the majority of our councillors who say parishing is a great way of localising services and making them responsive to the needs of communities.

Anybody who suggests it’s just a way of washing their hands of those services and palming off the blame on well-meaning parish councillors when things go horribly wrong is a nasty cynic.

So convinced am I by the wisdom of parishing that I think it should go even further than the changes currently planned.

Let’s hand over all the services instead of a limited selection, such as grass cutting and litter picking.

If things like that benefit from being localised, surely things like social care and looking after vulnerable people in general will benefit in the same way. Who better to take ultimate control of, say, a rest home or a sheltered housing complex than a group of people whose own homes are within a stone’s throw and who must be accountable to the community in which they live?

Our parish councils would obviously need not only human resources but also lashings of cash to tackle these enhanced roles, but fortunately there’d be no shortage of either. Front line workers and vital back room and ancillary staff could be taken from the borough council and divided among the new parish councils as needed. So could every piece of equipment from staplers and hole punches to computers and ride-on lawnmowers.

The cash to pay the salaries as the new parish council employees could be taken from our council tax, just as it is now.

With the borough council effectively ceasing to exist, there would probably be no role under the new system for borough councillors and high-flying senior executives, but I’m sure they’d understand they were making a noble sacrifice for the greater good.

At least the money we saved on their salaries and allowances and on their office expenses, meetings and whatnot, could be divvied up among the parish councils.

We might even end up with a far more efficient system in which not a penny was wasted and taxes were kept to a minimum.

The alternative would be to have two tiers of local government, two sets of taxes and two sets of people being paid a share of those taxes when only one would do.