WORKERS in a Government department which could be moved out of a North-East town claim they are being forced into applying for early redundancy - before a final decision is made.

About 480 civil servants at Mowden Hall, Darlington, say they have been asked to take two severance deals by the Department for Education (DfE) - before receiving confirmation of where their posts will be based.

The DfE says Mowden Hall is too expensive to repair and is looking at offering travel compensation to workers if their jobs are moved out of the town.

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The Northern Echo understands the DfE has narrowed down its search for alternative sites to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

One staff member, from Darlington, who asked not to be named, said: “People are being made to look at life-changing decisions and redundancy packages without any knowledge of where the department will be moving.

“It's bang out of order and people are panicking; workers living in Darlington could give up their jobs for the department to then turn around and say it's staying in the town.

“They might not get new jobs if they do leave because the market is still extremely difficult, and if they don't get another Government job, they are going to lose pension payments.”

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, last week told The Northern Echo that Darlington was “still on the radar” to house Mowden Hall staff.

However, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) say the DfE, which is also moving workers from Runcorn, in Cheshire, to Manchester, was being unfair on workers.

A spokesman said: “We need them to be clear because workers feel that leaving Darlington is a done deal.

“The department seems to think Darlington and Newcastle are right next to each other, the distance just doesn't twig with them.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it was committed to staying in the North-East.

She said: “We are consulting staff about the potential impact of moving to any of the locations.

“Depending on which site is chosen, we will consider financial compensation for cost of travel and we will consider offering severance pay to staff choosing to leave rather than commute to a new location.”