What has a £900,000 paint job got to do with democratic accountability?

The Voyager transport aircraft, tasked with flying senior ministers to global events and summits, will be repainted at a cost of £900,000.

This doesn’t sound like just a routine maintenance repaint to me. A normal paint job is £100k, it sounds like it simply doesn’t need doing at all. There’s a lot that is unclear about what exactly this contract covers, however, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said of the decision to repaint the jet from its standard grey:

“The £900,000 cost incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role. Voyager can better represent the UK around the world with national branding. All of the work has been done in the UK.”
And that’s the rub from a public and democratic accountability viewpoint: contracts are usually opaque and are harder to scrutinise. Conservatives argue that contract law is robust to deal with things, but there is an issue here as to how much of what used to be publicly accountable is now hidden behind contracts and “commercially sensitive confidentiality”.
This is the case with the ‘track and trace” app and service where millions of pounds have been spent with little accountability and no democratic transparency, only to be scrapped and open-source alternative being investigated.
It’s also of major significance in the London borough of Barnet where the council has contracted out EVERY SINGLE FUNCTION of the council to ONE company: Capita. Where there was once democratic accountability now there is commercial secrecy.
I could list more: the NHS, local health authorities, many functions of government and local authorities, public transport……. and public money is being paid to companies who make a great profit with no accountability: no one can vote out Capita at the next local election. And no one knows the true extent of vested interests when they are hidden behind such enormous veils.

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