A Labour councillor who is seeking selection to be her party’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton in May’s London Assembly elections has been accused of failing to honour fees amounting to hundreds of pounds agreed for a Windrush Generation stage performance.
Which is potentially all a bit embarrassing for Patsy Cummings, whose campaign to be selected by Labour Party members in Croydon and Sutton rests heavily on her credentials as a BAME community activist and who her literature claims “works tirelessly for all members of society who need her help, most recently the Windrush Generation who have been treated so badly by this government”.
Now, it is performer Anika Wilson who is claiming she has been treated badly by Cummings, after repeated requests for payment of fees have been ignored by the South Norwood ward councillor.
For the past decade, locally-based Wilson has curated historical artefacts and written stage monologues relating to the story of the Windrush Generation. Her performance company, KORA, was formed “out the dream of keeping our heritage alive”. She has used the arts to engage and educate, through story-telling and drama workshops. Wilson – whose own mother was a member of the Windrush generation – has been hired by the government in Ghana and has taken her work to Jamaica.
In October 2018, she says she was asked by Cummings to perform her Saleah’s Journey monologue at two special assemblies at Virgo Fidelis school, marking the start of the schools competition for the council’s Windrush celebrations in 2019.
Wilson says that she was booked through a late request via text message from Cummings on the night before the performance. It was confirmed, also by text message, on the morning of the assemblies.
As a result of the hurried and ad hoc nature of the bookings being placed, the usual booking forms were not completed. An agreement over her payment was made in conversation after the assemblies, when Cummings is said to have told the performer that there would be more opportunities to be part of Croydon’s National Windrush day celebrations in 2019.
Wilson even received further requests for work, including to curate, research and source items for the “Living Room” installation and the Windrush exhibition in the Museum of Croydon, as well as performing at two council-run events in June last year.
In June 2019, Wilson issued four separate invoices for a combined total of £2,375.
Wilson says that repeated calls, text messages and emails to Cummings and the council’s accounts payable department have not received any response since September. Contact with Tony Newman, the council leader, and her local MP, Steve Reed OBE, saw some payments made, but she has still been left £600 short of the full amount agreed and invoiced.
Indeed, on November 11 last year – five months after the council was invoiced – Wilson was told that the matter was closed, and that no further payments would be made.
This week, Wilson has appealed again to Newman and Reed to intervene on her behalf.
“Blocking KORA on Twitter will not make this issue disappear!” Wilson wrote.
“Councillor Cummings, you are standing as a candidate for GLA representing my borough of Croydon… The article and your reasons for standing [are] ironic and very misleading,” Wilson said.
Wilson told Inside Croydon, “I run a small company providing services to Croydon elders, and prompt payment of the money we are owed is very important to us.
“I am extremely disappointed that Councillor Cummings, the borough’s BAME champion who organised the council’s Windrush events has found it impossible to honour her financial commitment to a Windrush Generation organisation in Croydon.
“We cannot understand why the councillor has decided not to pay for our services.
“Shame on Councillor Cummings for ignoring my emails, calls and text, failing to acknowledge my numerous emails directly to you and the leader of the council.
“How can you represent us?”
It is not only Anika Wilson and Kora’s emails that go without substantive reply from the councillor. Inside Croydon put the allegations of non-payment to Cummings in December, and only received a cursory acknowledgement, with an undertaken that the questions would be answered soon after. We have also contacted the councillor this week, offering her the opportunity to state her position, without response.
Perhaps the most worrying thing for the Council Tax-payers of Croydon is the realisation that Cummings has been appointed by Newman as his deputy cabinet member for…finance and resources.
Cummings is paid £21,595 per year for that deputy cabinet role. If elected to the London Assembly, she would also receive a salary of £56,270.
Cummings is one of just two women short-listed by Labour to run for a seat in the London Assembly in May’s elections (the other is Blue Labour figure Rowenna Davis).
Labour Party members in Croydon and Sutton were due to receive their selection ballot forms this week.
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