CIVIL servants at a Government department which may be moved out of a North-East town could go on strike.
Workers at Mowden Hall, in Darlington, have voted to take industrial action in a row over Department for Education (DfE) spending cuts which could result in 1,000 job losses.
About 480 civil servants' posts will be moved from Mowden Hall after DfE bosses said the building was too expensive to repair, and it understood alternative sites in Darlington, Durham and Newcastle are being considered.
Last night, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which has 224 representatives in Darlington, said the majority of its 1,800 membership workers had voted to go on strike, with 86 per cent prepared to take industrial action including working to rule.
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, previously told The Northern Echo no final decision on any financial cuts had been made and that Darlington was “still on the radar” to house DfE staff.
The PCS ballot comes after The Northern Echo last month revealed how union bosses accused senior civil servants of using a party hat game to identify cuts, and Mowden Hall workers claimed they had been forced into applying for early redundancy without confirmation where their posts will be based.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the union believed Mr Gove was using the DfE as a test-bed for deeper civil service cuts.
He said: “These cuts are purely political and would mean misery for 1,000 of Mr Gove's own staff.
“However, they put at risk some vital public services, such as ensuring children are safe at school and supporting special educational needs.”
Mr Serwotka also criticised the DfE after it employed global management consultants, Bain and Company, to review its financial position, saying it raised worries of a conflict of interest.
A DfE spokeswoman previously said it was committed to staying in the North-East.
She said: “We are consulting our staff about the potential impact of moving from Mowden Hall and will consider financial compensation for cost of travel severance pay.”
A Northern Echo-led petition to stop the DfE leaving Darlington attracted more than 1,100 signatures and will be presented to Mr Gove at Downing Street by The Northern Echo and Darlington MP Jenny Chapman.
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