John Whittingdale supported a demonstration by local residents outside Budgens in Maldon High Street campaigning to save Maldon's Post Office, Budgens is due to close at the end of March and with it, the Post Office. John Whittingdale is shown with County Councillor Brian Mead, Cllr Steven Savage and protest organiser, Kirsty O'Callaghan, together with local residents. Statement by John Whittingdale OBE MP Member of Parliament for Maldon and East Chelmsford I am horrified to learn of the impending closure of the Budgens store in Maldon High Street at the end of March, and with it, the loss of the Maldon Post Office. At the time of its relocation to Budgens in July 2006, I was given explicit assurances by the Post Office that Budgens were making a significant financial investment into the franchise partnership and that this relocation "will further safeguard main Post Office services in Maldon into the longer-term future". Yet it now appears that Budgens have been seeking to withdraw from Maldon for the past two years. It is wholly unacceptable that Maldon should be left without a main Branch Post Office located in the High Street. If an alternative franchise holder cannot be found in time then the Post Office should reopen their original office. Anything less would be a betrayal of the undertakings given to me and to the people of Maldon less than two years ago. I strongly assured at the time that it would safeguard post office services in Maldon into the longer-term future. I accept that this latest development is not the fault of the Post Office and I note that they are considering legal action against Budgens for breach of contract. However, it does vindicate those of us who originally expressed concern at the loss of the Post Office’s own premises. I therefore convened a meeting at Westminster with Post Office management and representatives of the County Council, District Council, Town Council and Postwatch. This proved constructive and I hope has identified a way forward.
The Post Office make clear that they are committed to a long-term presence in Maldon High Street and they will shortly begin advertising for a new franchise holder. Unfortunately, the option of moving back into the old building is not available as it has been sold and the new owners are not interested. The Post Office also intend to establish a sub-post office in the High Street as a temporary solution until a new location can be found. A sub-postmaster has been found to take this on and it is hoped to find premises shortly. Unfortunately, this will still leave a gap between the closure of the existing Post office on 19 March and the establishment of the temporary solution. I have made clear that I regard any break of service as unacceptable and we are therefore seeking to find a way of providing a basic level to ensure continuity. One possibility is for the District council to take this on and this option is urgently being explored. It may also be possible to provide free transport to the sub-post offices in Heybridge and in Washington Road. I very much regret the disruption and inconvenience which is bound to be caused. However, I and the District Council are working with the Post Office to ensure that this is kept to a minimum and I am hopeful that a satisfactory outcome can be found.'