Amidst all the talk of ‘tough decisions’ and an era of austerity, simple common sense can lead the way. Catering managers in a hospital in Nottingham have saved £2.50 per patient – that is more than £6m a year by sourcing their food locally.

Trust catering manager John Hughes said up to £400m could be saved annually if it were rolled out across the NHS. The hospital contract is also supporting dozens of local farmers and has saved a number from going under. Go here to see the BBC film on the issue.

In its first year the farm-to-plate scheme has put a million pounds into the local economy and that is likely to double over the next 12 months.

Mr Hughes says the idea of getting his beef from down the road rather than South America sounded good but he thought it would be too expensive.

He was also concerned there would not be enough fresh local produce to fill his cupboards.

“I was happy to be proved wrong on both counts,” he said. “This was one of the tough decisions I think we’d be cheered to the rafters for taking.”

The lesson would be to move from an era of excess into one of frugality and living within ecological limits. But not, as is expected, to punish the poor for the lifestyle of the rich and the public sector for the incompetence of the private.