Twice, I have been in the fortunate position of offering an organisation the chance to make Â£250m. The first time, I was starting a bank. I contacted the chairman of what was then the Halifax and offered to discuss the idea. Six months later, the bank confirmed that it wanted its belated Christmas present and it started a new business bank.
The second time, I offered the government the chance to save Â£250m. This time the offer was even better -- they had to make no investment and take no risk. They only had to pay for the results we achieved.
The scheme was a programme to reduce re-offending. We knew it would work because we'd already tried and proven it, so we were happy to put our own money behind it. Reducing re-offending saves the government a fortune in court, police and prison costs.
In the universe business people and humans inhabit, Â£250m, risk free, is worth talking about. If you are a junior minister or civil servant, you avoid such offers like the plague -- they mean more work and may mean that you can not indulge your pet project of building big Titanic prisons. Building prisons generates headlines and photo opportunities, reducing crime does not.
Ministers and civil servants reacted to the idea of saving money exactly the way a bad business reacts to disaster. They all started saying it was nothing to do with them, passing the buck from the Prisons minister to the Justice Secretary to the Department of Work and Pensions to the Department of Industry, Universities and Skills to BERR (don't ask) to the Treasury, to the Cabinet Office and back to the Prisons Minister.
If government was a business, it would be out of business. It should be referred to the Competition Commission immediately.
If, as a taxpayer, you wonder whether your taxes are being wisely spent. Doubt no more. They are being wasted horribly. Even in the middle of a credit crunch which means most businesses and families are tightening their belts, the government carries on spending and can afford to ignore offers of Â£250m of savings.
So here is a special offer to any government minister who is interested in saving taxpayer's money or reducing crime: get in touch and I can give you Â£250m. All that money is just an email away.