DOZENS of North-East jobs are at risk of being moved out of the region as part of Government privatisation plans, The Northern Echo has learnt.

Staff at the Department for Education (DfE), in Darlington, were informed this week that the department is looking into plans to outsource IT posts.

The proposals, which are still in the early stages, are understood to affect up to 30 jobs at the DfE's Mowden Hall offices and more in other areas of the country.

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The Northern Echo led a successful campaign to keep 400 DfE jobs in the town.

Plans to move out of the run-down Mowden Hall were announced by the DfE in 2012.

Hundreds of jobs were put at risk of being moved out of Darlington to elsewhere in the region.

Thousands of people signed a petition to keep the jobs in the town, with council leaders and Labour MPs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) and Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) joining the campaign.

The DfE ultimately gave in and agreed to house the at-risk jobs in a purpose built office block in Darlington town centre.

Currently under construction and expected to be complete by the start of next year, the £8m office block is seen by many Darlington residents as an extension to the town's 1960s-built Town Hall, widely agreed to be in need of major improvement work.

With the DfE yet to comment on these latest plans to outsource Darlington jobs, it remains to be seen whether or not it is the case that some of the hundreds of jobs the new office is being built to accommodate will never actually be moved there.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which campaigned strongly in favour of keeping members' jobs in Darlington, has been informed of the latest plans and is considering its position.

Mrs Chapman called the latest developments 'distressing'.

She said: "There is a wider pattern from the Government in attempting to outsource these kinds of jobs, they are trying to do it with the Ministry of Justice.

"Sending public sector jobs offshore goes against everything the Tories have said about wanting to bring jobs back to the UK.

"It would be dreadful if, after everything we have been through to secure these jobs in Darlington, we were to lose a number of them in this way."

The DfE has not responded to repeated requests for comment.