Frugality, smart cities and social justice….I really should apologise

I really should apologise…

Last night at TEDxLeeds we had some really excellent presentations including one from IBM’s Rashik Parmar on Smarter Cities that included a great little video on the stupidity of food supply logistics…

Rashik then went on to talk about how ‘sustainability’ and an era of ‘frugality’ will  impact on how we might build a smarter city.

Which is where I lost it.  A little.

We are in the throws of an investment of £1.25bn into a two new shopping centres and an Arena for Leeds.

Sustainability?  Frugality?  Localism?

An additional million square feet of retail space,  and 13500 seats to be sold at least 100 nights a year at an average ticket price of perhaps £30?  And a further £15m is to be invested in a southern entrance to the station (pedestrian only) when the existing 2 entrances are shambolic.

Now the shopping centres will be funded entirely out of private money I believe.  And investors have no doubt done the research to suggest that even in times of frugality they are an investment that will pay off.  Because the frugality is not for all of us.  We are not all in frugality together.  Nor sustainability.

The southern entrance to the station will be paid for by money from central government and local transport bodies (don’t ask me if they are public or private – but I suspect it is either our taxes or our fares one way or another).  But it is an investment that will reduce travel times for an estimated 20% of the stations users who need to access  Granary Wharf, Holbeck Urban Village or the City Inn.  Now I would be gobsmacked if those destinations counted for 20% of station passengers – but I will go with it.

And how will it reduce journey times?

By meaning that passengers will no longer have to walk for perhaps 5 minutes and pass through the recently refurbished Neville Street and under the Dark Arches to get south of the river.

This at a time, and over a timescale, when 1 in 6 council workers will be made redundant to save £150m over the next 4 years….

1 in 6 council workers being laid off and we spend £15m so that those who can still commute to a job have a shorter walk.

So I asked a question.

I asked whether this sounded like it was smart strategy for a city facing challenges of sustainability and frugality?  Apparently that is a political question….one on which Rashik would not be drawn.

Perhaps  now is not a time for ‘political’ questions….

I think that it is.  But, perhaps I am the minority.

Now where was that Derek Sivers video on starting a movement?


  1. Strangely, I’m with you on this one, Mike.

    Rashik’s presentation was a jumping off point for me, it raised so many questions about the practicalities of what is needed now. As I ate the free food and drank the free drink, housed in an empty office block, I pondered on our, ‘learned helplessness’ culture.

    Not being drawn on a political question is a cop out. It’s all political. Giving a corporate presentation is not the answer if you deny the discussion afterwards.

Speak Your Mind



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: