AN energy supplier has played down fears North-East call centre jobs could be axed in a merger.

Npower says it has made no decision on staffing numbers after reaching an agreement with SSE to create a new UK supplier.

The Northern Echo understands workers at Npower’s flagship regional call centre in Houghton-le-Spring were told about the plans earlier this week, with staff worrying the move could hit back office and IT roles.

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SSE has also said the merger will help the firms compete in a “competitive and regulatory environment” and allow it to make savings.

However, Npower last night said it remains too early to say if posts at Houghton-le-Spring, which deals with electricity and gas complaints and provides employment for more than 2,000 people, will be affected.

A spokeswoman said nothing will happen in the short-term, since the approvals process for the proposed merger is expected to take at least a year.

The deal will see Npower’s parent company, Germany’s Innogy, and SSE merge their household energy supply and services businesses in Britain, turning the Big Six energy suppliers into five.

The new company will be listed on the London Stock Exchange with SSE shareholders holding 65.6 per cent and Innogy 34.4 per cent.

Shareholders in SSE will vote on the deal by July next year, while Innogy has committed to seek the approval of its supervisory board by the end of 2017.

Innogy booked a half-year loss for Npower in August as it grappled with what it called “fierce competition and political pressure.”

However, SSE says it isn’t put off by those travails, with chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies saying the merger will provide a stronger operator capable of delivering better services for customers.

He said: “We believe a separation of our household energy and services business, and the proposed merger with Npower, will enable both entities to focus more acutely on pursuing their own dedicated strategies.

"It will ultimately better serve customers, employees and other stakeholders.”

Npower also runs a centre in Peterlee, east Durham, which deals with energy efficiency queries.

SSE, formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy, is Britain’s second largest supplier.