A PETITION has been presented to the Government to stop hundreds of jobs being moved out of Darlington.

The Northern Echo today delivered the Save Our Jobs campaign to Downing Street - urging the Department for Education (DfE) to keep its 480 civil service posts in the town.

The jobs will be transferred from its Mowden Hall site after the DfE said the building was too expensive to repair.

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Today, the DfE - which is looking to cut 1,000 jobs nationally - said no final decision has yet been made and it is still considering alternative sites in Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

Staff say they would be unable to afford the travel costs if their jobs are relocated away from the town.

The Northern Echo presented the petition, which includes almost 1,200 signatures, to the DfE alongside Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield.

Mrs Chapman, who knocked on the door at 10 Downing Street to hand over the petition, said losing the jobs would be a major blow for Darlington's economy as Mowden Hall workers and their families generate up to £21m a year.

"The jobs at Mowden Hall are vitally important to Darlington," she said.

"We wanted to use every avenue possible to make that case, and this petition has allowed us to take the campaign to the highest possible level and show we must keep the jobs in the town.

"If we lost these jobs, it would damage Darlington's economy and hit businesses hard because it has been estimated these workers, and their families, put in up to £21m into the town every year.

"We have kept this fight going and really shown the strength of feeling in Darlington that workers at Mowden Hall should not be moved from the town.

"By taking it to Downing Street, we have kept the campaign alive and I really believe this petition will make a difference.

"I also want to commend The Northern Echo for the role it has played in organising this petition for making it easier for people to back the campaign, and for its ongoing support to the workers at Mowden Hall."

Last year, Mowden Hall staff sent a Christmas card to The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, pleading for him to keep their posts in the town, and say they are being forced into applying for early redundancy before a final decision on any move has been made.

Mr Wilson, said: "These jobs have to stay in Darlington, they are not just important for the town but the whole borough.

"There are a number of people living in Newton Aycliffe and villages outside Darlington who work at Mowden Hall."

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We are committed to retaining an office in the North-East, where we have more than 400 skilled and experience staff.

"Mowden Hall is in a poor state of repair and would require significant investment.

"Our new office will be in Darlington, Durham or Newcastle and we currently consulting our staff about the potential impact of moving to any of these locations.

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

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