A CAMPAIGN to keep hundreds of jobs in a North-East town has taken a step forward after a council leader and an MP met with a senior civil servant to make their case.

Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, and MP Jenny Chapman, both described their trip to Westminster today (Monday, November 26) as ‘productive’ as they battle to stop 400 civil service jobs being moved from Mowden Hall, in Darlington, to Newcastle.

The pair met with Chris Wormald, permanent secretary for the Department of Education (DFE), to make clear the strength of feeling about the jobs staying in the town and to determine what the department is looking for in potential new locations in Darlington.

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Mowden Hall has been earmarked for closure in March by the DFE because of its poor condition, with staff set to be transferred to an existing DFE site in Newcastle.

A campaign to keep the highly-skilled jobs in the town, backed by The Northern Echo, has received huge support from local people.

Speaking after the meeting Ms Chapman said: “It was a very productive meeting. I think the DFE is persuaded to look closely at the proposals we are planning to make for the alternative sites in Darlington.

“There are very clear benefits to the department staying in the town. We have a significant job of work to do in meeting the department’s specifications for alternative sites. That’s something we will be putting all of our energies into in the coming weeks.”

Among the alternative sites mooted for the staff based at Mowden Hall are Lingfield Point and Northgate House.

Coun Dixon, who was joined on the trip by opposition leader Coun Heather Scott in a show of cross-party unity, said: “It was an excellent meeting, really productive. We are now clearer about what we need to do next.

“We are now going to go away and make Darlington’s offer as good as it can be.”

An online petition launched by The Northern Echo to Save Darlington Jobs, which will be presented to Education Secretary Michael Gove, has attracted hundreds of signatures.

Sign it at northernecho.co.uk/jobspetition