A COUNCIL leader and an MP have vowed to set out the strongest case they can to keep more than 400 civil service jobs in a town.

Darlington Borough Council leader, Bill Dixon, and the town's MP, Jenny Chapman, have joined forces to lead the fight to stop the posts being transferred from Mowden Hall, in Darlington, to Newcastle.

Following a report from the Department of Education (DfE) outlining what the civil service would need from an alternative site in Darlington, Coun Dixon said he was confident the town could meet the requirements.

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The Mowden Hall site has been identified for closure in March next year because of its poor state of repair, and alternative sites in Darlington include Northgate House and Lingfield Point.

Coun Dixon said: “The buildings need to be adaptable and close to other public sector centres - they call it a public sector hub.

"They also need broadband connection, and must be near to rail and air transport links. For those reasons I can’t see why we wouldn’t get it.

“Both of the sites offer good facilities so we will put together the strongest bid we can to keep the jobs in Darlington.

“There is a very good workforce in Darlington, and to make them go to Newcastle to work would be unfair. The additional cost of getting there could be enough to make them quit their jobs or retire, which is not what we want.”

Mrs Chapman has also secured a debate called “Jobs at Mowden Hall” in Westminster on Tuesday, December 11 with the DfE.

She said: “I think there is a huge amount of work still to be done, but we have made a good start in opening the case to the Department for Education.

“They are opening up to the idea that staying in Darlington would be the best option for them and we need to show them we are committed to keeping them here.

“We need to stay optimistic and present them with a strong offer. There are advantages to both of these facilities and for me the priority is to keep the jobs in Darlington - I would be delighted with either of them.”

A Northern Echo-led petition to keep the skilled jobs in Darlington has already attracted almost 900 signatures and will be presented to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, at Downing Street.

To sign the petition visit northernecho.co.uk/jobspetition