A UNION has claimed the Government has created an “atmosphere of flippancy” after senior civil servants used a party hat game to identify cutbacks.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) say Department for Education (Dfe) officials were asked to wear hats during a meeting on service cuts.

They were only allowed to take them off after identifying areas they wanted to remove.

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The DfE employs 480 staff at Mowden Hall, in Darlington.

They could be moved to sites across the North-East as the Government looks to cut about 1,000 jobs nationally.

The DfE has said the meeting did not cover job losses.

The Northern Echo revealed how an internal blog from head of financial and commercial, Simon Judge, said staff wore party hats in a directors’ meeting.

Kathy Prendiville, PCS’ education group secretary, said the behaviour had infuriated Mowden Hall staff.

She said: “The Government has fostered an atmosphere of flippancy where people feel confident to blog about these issues to members of staff.

“It is crass and insensitive that they can make such remarks about people’s livelihoods.

“It’s like they are playing a game of name that cut, and our members are furious and feel let down.

“We are still fighting to stop forced relocations and this campaign is only getting stronger.”

Janette Durbin, from the DfE, said staff had not acted insensitively.

She said: “This approach was used because it was not a sensitive subject, and we are fully aware of the impact of headcount reductions and need to minimise uncertainty.”

Hundreds of Mowden Hall workers last month protested to save their jobs in the town.

A petition, led by the Northern Echo, attracted more than 1,100 signatures.

It will be presented to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, at Downing Street by The Northern Echo and Darlington MP Jenny Chapman.