Smoke and mirrors

POLITICAL leaders often tell us that progress, particularly when it involves technology, may be painful but is worth it in the long run. In South Yorkshire some of these hypothetical gains look farther away than ever as the fire and rescue service faces yet another problem. The £19m environmentally friendly headquarters in Sheffield, which produces more greenhouse gases than the larger and older building it replaced, is an embarrassing step backwards.

Lessons must be learnt from this fiasco. It is right to attempt to cut carbon emissions but more thought needs to be put into how it can be made to work long-term. As David Cameron no doubt realised five years ago, when it emerged his briefcase arrived in a car while he cycled to work, claiming to be part of the green revolution requires more than a soundbite.

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In Britain in 2011, money is scarce and has to be used prudently. It was evidently not well-used by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue. The sooner people in executive positions across the public sector start acting with more care, the better. Poor decisions taken during the "boom" years will find notoriety as the pain of the spending cuts is felt more widely.

As more green energy technologies come into operation, it is vital that decision-makers take time to understand how they work, or they risk looking like they are jumping on a bandwagon. Political leaders should guard public money as if it were their own, or face having their spending power removed.