Next year, in 2015, Parliament will be celebrating two historic anniversaries that mark the beginning of democracy in the UK; the 800th year since the signing of the Magna Carta and the 750th anniversary of the de Montfort Parliament. To mark the de Montfort anniversary, where elected representatives from around the country came together for the first time, the 2015 Flag Project has invited each Member of Parliament to nominate a school in their constituency to design a flag to represent where they live. The project will culminate in a large scale celebratory event in March 2015 when it is hoped that 150 of the flags (representing each county in the UK) will fly in Parliament Square (pending permission from DCMS) and the surrounding area. The remaining 500 flags will be featured on a digital platform.
John Whittingdale said: “ I have always been impressed by the importance that Maldon Primary School attaches to its School Council and have been delighted regularly to attend an assembly in recent years to present the School Council badges to those who have been elected. The experience of electing representatives to a School Council provides an excellent introduction for pupils to the democratic process and to how elected representatives can influence decisions. I was very pleased to be able to nominate them and wish them every success in the Competition”.
John Whittingdale cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the new-look Burnham on Crouch Post Office, which has been fully refurbished with Post Office services now available from four modern counters. The Post Office at 22 Station Road, Burnham, now has three main counters - two open plan and one screened, open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5.30pm. There is also a combi-counter, where customers can access selected Post Office products and services alongside retail transactions. This is open Monday and Thursday: 9am to 8pm; Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 9am – 6pm; Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm. There is improved layout of the store which makes it easier for customers with disabilities and people with pushchairs to get around the pharmacy and Post Office. Opening hours have also been extended - 11 hours a week more than previously offered, including Saturday afternoon and later closing every day.
Ani Patel, who has been a postmaster for more than five years, said: “The branch is now better laid out and more spacious for customers to have more room to get around the whole store. It is
a lot more customer friendly. It is modern and clean and easier to have conversations with the open plan counters. The consultation room allows private conversations – just like a bank.”
Gary Herbert, Post Office Senior Stakeholder Manager, said: “We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in Burnham on Crouch. I am confident this new modern Post Office will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future. This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office. It marks a commitment to no more branch closure programmes.”
Under the current Parliament the Government has committed £1.34bn for the Post Office network to make sure there is no programme of Post Office closures and to update branches; in November the Government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network, from 2015 to 2018. Nationwide the investment programme will see up to 8,000 branches modernised with additional investment in over 3,000 community and outreach branches.
John is pictured with Ani Patel, Postmaster, and with customers and staff.
John Whittingdale visited Desch Plantpak, the market leading manufacturer in the UK of packaging and growing systems for the horticulture market, which is based in Burnham Road in Mundon. Founded by Michael Hindmarch in 1968, the firm has since been acquired by Dutch owners and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.
John toured the plant and cut the ribbon to unveil the new facilities. These include a high speed thermoforming line and four fully robotised injection moulding centres to produce flowerpots, capable of being run on a “lights out” basis. This represents an investment of over £2 million in the business securing its future.
John said “I warmly congratulate Desch Plantpak in Mundon on its 50th anniversary and am delighted to formally open its new manufacturing facility. This consists of state of the art technology which will ensure that the company remains the market leader. It is great news for all the staff at Mundon and is another example of a world-beating company based in Maldon.”
John is pictured with Chris Clarke, Managing Director, and Jim Binch of Lincoln Management Inc, planting a tree to mark the 50th anniversary and cutting the ribbon to open the new facilities.
John Whittingdale presented Badges to the elected members of the School Council at Maldon Primary School in Wantz Chase. John attends each year to meet the new School Councillors and also to talk to the assembly about his work as MP for Maldon.
John is pictured with the School Council Members.
John Whittingdale visited Burnham on Crouch Primary School to help relaunch the school with its brand new identity. The School has a new logo and uniform and John also performed the official opening ceremony of the School's new reception area.
John Whittingdale visited the Essex Air Ambulance Airbase in Earls Colne. The Essex Air Ambulance is a charity which provides a free life-saving Helicopter Emergency Medical Service across the county. It costs in the region of £440,000 per month to run and relies entirely on fund-raising, voluntary subscription and donation. John discussed the work of the Service with Chief Executive, Jane Gurney, and Clinical Manager, Laurie Phillipson, and was given a tour of the airbase. John said: “The Essex Air Ambulance provides an invaluable service and each year saves many lives. It is particularly important in the more remote rural areas of the County, like the Dengie Peninsula, where ambulance response times can be poor and it can then take 40 minutes or more for an ambulance to get a patient to hospital. “
Jane Gurney (CEO) and Laurie Phillipson (Clinical Manager).
John Whittingdale officiated at a train-naming ceremony at Wickford station to mark the 125th anniversary of the Crouch Valley Line.
The train naming ceremony completed a series of events put together by Abellio Greater Anglia and the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership to celebrate the anniversary. Originally called the ‘Dengie Hundred’ section of Essex Railways; The Crouch Valley Line, as it has become known, was opened to passengers in July 1889 by the Great Eastern Railway Company. This 16.5 mile stretch of railway is now operated by Abellio Greater Anglia who run 334 services a week with approximately 1.6 million passenger journeys a year made through the seven stations along the route.
John Whittingdale MP unveiled the newly named Class 321 train ‘Crouch Valley 1889 – 2014’ to honour the occasion and an additional commemorative plaque was presented to John Jolly to be exhibited at the Mangapps railway museum in Burnham on Crouch.
John Whittingdale MP said, “I am delighted to be able to take part in this naming ceremony of the new “Crouch Valley 1889-2014” train, which is the culmination of the events to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Crouch Valley line. Having already attended events at both South Woodham Ferrers and Burnham on Crouch stations marking the anniversary, I am very conscious of the importance of the line to my constituents. I very much welcome the commitment shown by Abellio Greater Anglia to the future of the service which I know will be of great reassurance to passengers and to local residents.”
John Whittingdale is pictured unveiling the new train with Jonathan Denby, Head of Corporate Affairs for Greater Anglia and later with Una Norman, Cllr Bob Boyce, Ursula Benjafield, County Councillor Ray Howard and Jonathan Denby.
John Whittingdale met Chief Inspector Alan Cook, District Commander for Maldon and Chelmsford to discuss local policing issues. Chief Inspector who was previously staff officer to the Chief Constable of Essex has recently taken up post and is responsible for policing throughout the Maldon District and Chelmsford City areas. John discussed with him the forthcoming changes to Policing in the county which will restore local commands as well as issues of concern to residents such as anti-social behaviour and rural crime.
John Whittingdale cut the ribbon to open the new facilities at Stock Post Office at 36 High Street, Stock. As part of the Post Office programme to modernise the network and extend opening hours for customers, the new Stock Post Office offers services from an open-plan counter instead of a full screened counter. The branch will now open significantly earlier and close later with no lunchtime closing. This offers customers an extra 30 hours Post Office Service each week. John joined Lesley Pervez who has been Subpostmistress at Stock Post Office for 20 years as well as local resident Steve Davis who took a break from snooker to show his support for his local post office.
John Whittingdale MP said: "I am delighted to be able to open the new Stock Post Office and congratulate Lesley Pervez on all her hard work. I am very conscious of the vital role that Post Offices play in many village communities and it is very good news that Stock will now have a new modern branch. In particular, I am sure that local residents in Stock will welcome the longer opening hours and the more customer friendly design which will ensure that the Post Office continues to play a central part in the life of the village”
John Whittingdale attended a celebratory tea at Knightswood Centre to thank all those volunteers who support the Dengie Project Trust. The Dengie Project Trust provides a range of services to empower older people to make choices, enabling them to reach optimum levels of health and fitness and to lead rich, safe and fulfilling lives. The Trust seeks to assist and enable people, who live to the South of Maldon Town and in the surrounding villages and hamlets on the Dengie Peninsular.
John presented certificates to all the volunteers in recognition of their support. The event was held as part of Volunteers Week.
John is pictured with Sharon Dodson, Trust Manager.
John Whittingdale attended the Armed Forces Day ceremony organised by Maldon District Council at Stow Maries Aerodrome. At 1.00pm, a flag raising ceremony took place and a short service. The Tiger Club Turbulent Display Team then flew a Missing Man formation in tribute to the Stow airmen who lost their lives.
Following the ceremony, John visited the exhibitions including the aircraft that had flown in for the day. These included two reproduction BE2es operated by the World War 1 Aviation Heritage Trust which had been brought over from New Zealand. They are intended to return to Stow Maries once the hangars are completed. One of the two aircraft is in RFC 37 Squadron’s colours. 37 Squadron was based at Stow Maries from 1916 to 1919.
John is pictured by the War Memorial at the Aerodrome and also standing by one of the BE2e airplanes with Dick Forsythe of the World War 1 Aviation Heritage Trust, his daughter and the pilot.
John Whittingdale attended a service at Burnham Railway Station to mark the 125th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Crouch Valley line. Originally called the ‘Dengie Hundred’ section of Essex Railways; The Crouch Valley Line, as it has become known, was opened to passengers in July 1889 by the Great Eastern Railway Company. This 16.5 mile stretch of railway is now operated by Abellio Greater Anglia who run almost 140 services a week with approximately 1.6 million passenger journeys a year made through the seven stations along the route.
Following the service, John Whittingdale unveiled a series of paintings which had been designed by local children and painted by local artists to decorate the Station House. Earlier in the year children and young people in Burnham were asked to submit designs for the blocked in windows of Burnham station. 15 designs were chosen and these, with one exception, were painted by adult artists. John Whittingdale unveiled each of the window paintings and presented certificates to the child designer and artist.
John is pictured with Chairman of Maldon District Council, Cllr Frank Delderfield, Cllr Peter Elliot, County Councillor Bob Boyce, Mayor of Burnham, Cllr Ron Pratt, Yvonne McDermott and Tracy Saunders, organiser of the Burnham Art Trail, and representatives of Abellio Greater Anglia.
John Whittingdale visited Challenger Solutions in South Woodham Ferrers to help the company celebrate its 20th Anniversary. Challenger Solutions is a Contract Electronics Manufacturer which began in May 1994 with just one employee. Since then it has seen steady growth with 50 employees and having extended its premises from one to four. The company s a growing player in the defence industry and exhibited at DSEI 2013 demonstrating its leading edge electronics assembly capabilities.
John is pictured with Nick Quill, Managing Director, and Jon Webb, Quality Manager.
John said: “I warmly congratulate Challenger Solutions on their 20th Birthday. The company is a great example of a small business based in South Woodham Ferrers which is beating the competition and growing steadily. I was delighted to have the chance to talk to talk to a number of the employees and I wish the company continuing success in the future”.
John Whittingdale attended an event in Parliament organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Air Ambulances. At the meeting, John met representatives of the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust.
John said: “The Air Ambulance provides a vital service in Essex, particularly in rural areas like the Dengie Peninsula from where it can take 40 minutes to reach Broomfield Hospital by road. It does so I am delighted that in his Budget this year, the Chancellor showed his support for air ambulances by rebating the VAT which they pay on aviation fuel. However, the charity depends on voluntary donation to keep going and I would like to pay tribute to all those who give it such generous support. I am looking forward to visiting the air ambulance at their Headquarters in Earls Colne soon”.
John is pictured with:
• Paul Leaman (Assistant Chief Executive of East of England Ambulance Service Trust)
• Jane Gurney (Chief Executive Officer of the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust)
• Brian Shipley (Chair of the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust)
John Whittingdale MP attended the National Continence Care Awards 2014 presentation in the House of Commons in order to congratulate Jane Miranda, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Provide, St Peter’s Hospital, Maldon, who was highly commended in the category of Clinical Leadership. The awards are designed to recognise and celebrate ambition, excellence and leadership in continence care across the country. They are chosen by LUTS – the expert group on lower urinary tract symptoms.
John is pictured with Sue Monk, a nurse on the team (centre), and Jane Miranda, team leader. John said: “Jane and her team do a fantastic job in providing advice and support to those suffering from continence problems across Mid Essex. I am delighted that Jane has received national recognition for her leadership and I warmly congratulate her and her team on this award”.
John Whittingdale attended the Burnham Rugby Club Funday. John is pictured with the Burnham Ladies Rugby team before their match against South Woodham Ferrers.
Reporting on the match, Becky (Specks) Diss wrote:
What a morning/afternoon of rugby. The ladies managed to get a tournament going for the Annual Fun Day, with one Burnham squad, one Woodham Squad (plus a few extras!), and two Chelmsford Squads we were set for a great couple of hours of rugby. John Whittingdale kicked off the proceedings during the afternoon which brought much merriment to the whole day.
The first match was Woodham v Burnham, always a very fun match with great team spirit. Burnham were fortunate enough to be awarded a penalty and this was taken quickly which meant a try was scored (Diss). The match then continuted in a fast and furious way with Woodham popping a try over! All matches were fast and furious with some great crash balls from Michelle Puxley, to mention a few.There were some incredible runs and changes of lines from Hannah G, Portia Hutchings and Michelle Clark. All teams were relentless in defence, constantly putting the pressure on, especially Claire Miller and Barbara Hvidt and Jenny Nelson. The matches continued in a similar vein with continued strong running from several players, in particular Michelle Clark, who set up a few tries for Dave Kelly who was always there in support. Burnham played in the third and fourth place play off and did fantastically well, never giving up and with the incredible support of Jakey on the side line really lifted their game.
John Whittingdale officially opened the newly refurbished Cherry Trees Therapy Centre at St Peters Hospital, Maldon.
A plaque was unveiled and a ribbon cut by John to mark the event.
Cherry Trees Therapy Centre, which is managed by North Essex Partnership, has been refurbished and extended – it now has extra space to accommodate services that were previously provided from two separate buildings. It has a new reception with a skylight for improved natural light.
A wide range of services for adults and older adults including community mental health, recovery/reablement and occupational therapy are provided from the centre.
Andrew Geldard, Chief Executive said: “We have invested into transforming this centre into a fantastic place for our service users. Over 95% of our patients are treated in the community and we have brought Cherry Trees into the 21st century with modern design and facilities that is good for our service users.”
John is pictured with Chris Paveley, Chairman and Andrew Geldard, Chief Executive.
John Whittingdale presented a certificate to Thomas Gaynham, a pupil at the Priory Primary School, Bicknacre, to mark his success in the Royal Mail Design a Christmas Stamp Competition. The competition received entries from children aged 4-11 years-old from across the UK in response to the question, ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you? Thomas aged 5, was one of 24 national runners up in the competition which attracted 240,000 entries. As a result of his success, Thomas won £500 as did the Priory School.
John is pictured with Thomas and Ms Rachael Plunkett, Headteacher
John Whittingdale was delighted to present Jhual Ahmed the certificate marking the Maldon Tandoori being Highly Commended in this year’s Tiffin Cup competition. The Tiffin Cup is an annual British competition run by the Tiffin Club to find the best South Asian restaurant in the United Kingdom. Nominees are selected by their constituency and then put forward by their local MP. This is the second year running that the Maldon Tandoori has been highly commended. The Maldon Tandoori has also won both the Essex Tourism and Hospitality Award for best ethnic restaurant 2013 as well as a TripAdvisor Certificate for Excellence 2013 to add to its 2012 awards.
John Whittingdale said: “I warmly congratulate Jhual Ahmed and all at the Maldon Tandoori on being highly commended in the Tiffin Cup competition once again. As a regular customer, I can vouch for the high quality of the cuisine at the restaurant and this recognition is thoroughly deserved.”
John Whittingdale is pictured at the House of Commons with Jhual Ahmed and with Ian Jones, Chairman of the Maldon Conservative Association.
John Whittingdale opened a new affordable housing development at Everest Way, Heybridge. The development by Colne Housing consists of 30 properties built on 1.5 acres of farmland at at the end of Everest Way. Colne currently owns 187 units within the Everest Way estate. The project was supported by £70,000 capital grant from the Homes and Communities fund. In addition to this, Colne provided £2.5 million to deliver the 30 new homes. The properties are a mixture of one and two bedroom flats and two and three bedroom houses.
John Whittingdale said:
“I am very much aware of the severe shortage of social housing in the Maldon District which is trapping many families in inadequate accommodation. I am delighted to be able to open this impressive housing development which will help meet that demand. I congratulate Colne Housing and Maldon District Council on this project and hope that all those fortunate enough to be housed there will be very happy in their new homes”
John is pictured with Mark Powell Davies, Chief Executive of Colne, Cllr David Williams, Chairman of Maldon District Council, and Cllr Tim Young, Chairman of Colne.