“Definite lack of respect” as Bedford mayor fails to turn up at community event

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Bedfordshire Malayalee Association organsing committee on stage at their 2023 Christmas and New Year event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association
Bedfordshire Malayalee Association organsing committee on stage at their 2023 Christmas and New Year event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association

The organising committee of a local community association said to be an “immigration success story” has said they have been “left embarrassed” after Bedford Borough Mayor Tom Wootton (Conservative) failed to turn up at an event he was booked to attend.

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The Bedfordshire Malayalee Association, an association of people from the South Indian state of Kerala, had invited the mayor to attend their annual Christmas/New Year party late last year on 30 December.

His attendance was confirmed and organisers say they were even asked if Northamptonshire Cllr Pinder Chauhan could attend too.

While Cllr Chauhan is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Bedford & Kempston, she does not have any official capacity to represent Bedford Borough Council.

The Bedfordshire Malayalee Association was started officially 15 years ago and proactively participates in local community events. Around 90% of their members are frontline NHS workers.

Children performed a nativity scene at the event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association
Children performed a nativity scene at the event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association

“We were of course less than pleased,” said Sudheesh Sudhakaran, the secretary of the Association.

“We arranged our schedule around the mayor’s arrival, but he never turned up, delaying our program by about an hour.

“We emailed the mayor again and got a reply from his new PA that staff changes and vacations had caused this unfortunate mix-up and that the Mayor was double booked that day.

“Between two PAs of the mayor, the mayor himself and a councillor who is also the prospective Conservative MP candidate, how can this mix-up happen?”

Some of the attendees at the event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association
Some of the attendees at the event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association

“Extremely disappointed”

Sudheesh said 250 people were in attendance at the event and were all keen to see the mayor who they had been told was attending.

“The organising committee was left embarrassed before the members. We had even arranged a gift for the mayor.

“Most of us are NHS workers, people in technology. Hardworking, honest people.

“At every opportunity we have contributed to the local society too, in the form of contributing to food banks and participating in local events like Race for Life and River Festival. So we felt let down and were extremely disappointed.

“We had sponsors present at the event who asked what was really happening as we had told them that the Mayor would be turning up.

“The organising committee had to contact them the next day and explain to them that we had indeed invited the mayor and that it was a mix-up.”

The gift the Association had hoped to present to the mayor, was a miniature of a snake boat, a celebrated, traditional and meaningful gift from the Kerala community.

A gift to the mayor. A miniature of a snake boat of Kerala. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association.
A gift to the mayor. A miniature of a snake boat of Kerala. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association.

Apology

The Bedford Independent asked the mayor’s office why he was unable to attend.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson replied and said: “We understand the mayor’s office has already communicated directly with the Bedfordshire Malayalee Association on Tuesday, 2 January to say that the mayor cannot apologise enough for this unfortunate double-booking, and we are happy to apologise again.”

The spokesperson also said that the mayor has offered to attend one of the Association’ events in the future.

“The mayor has now offered to attend another event with us,” Sudheesh confirmed, “But we are not very sure. We feel let down by the mayor.

“Not showing the courtesy to tell us that the mayor was not going to turn up before the event is a definite lack of respect.”

Dancers at the Bedfordshire Malayalee Association 2023 Christmas and New Year event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association.
Dancers at the Bedfordshire Malayalee Association 2023 Christmas and New Year event. Image: Bedfordshire Malayalee Association.
 
 
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