A CAMPAIGN to keep up to 400 civil service posts in Darlington has received fresh impetus after the town's MP Jenny Chapman backed plans to deliver a Northern Echo petition to Downing Street.

Staff at the Department for Education (DfE) offices in Mowden Hall, Darlington, could be relocated to Newcastle as part of government budget cuts.

The move comes as DfE bosses look to axe 1,000 jobs nationally, and Mowden Hall has been identified for closure owing to its poor state of repair.

Staff are currently drawing up plans alongside union officials to stay in Darlington, with a decision on their future expected in March next year.

To date, about 750 people have signed The Northern Echo’s Save Darlington Jobs petition, and Mrs Chapman said she fully supported proposals to help present the campaign to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Mrs Chapman, who has vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to keep the workers in Darlington, said: “This is not just about any jobs; these are skilled positions with staff working in a number of key areas that cannot easily be replicated.

“Their kind of expertise is something that the department is not going to find anywhere else.

“These people have given their careers to serving education and these plans put them in a very difficult position.”

Mrs Chapman will meet Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon and chief executive Ada Burns this week to put forward alternative town sites to house DfE staff, which include Lingfield Point and Northgate House.

She said: “We need to agree on an outcome that the town can all support and put forward premises which are appealing and viable to keep the DfE in Darlington.

“It is about being pragmatic and we need to put the best case forward for the staff and the town.”

The campaign to keep the jobs in Darlington has also received support from Coun Bob Cook, leader of Stockton Council.

He said: “The majority of people affected live within the Tees Valley so these are key jobs in our area.

“There is fabulous alternative office accommodation available and we will support Darlington Borough Council in maintaining the jobs in the town.”

You can join The Northern Echo's fight to keep jobs in Darlington, by signing an online petition at northernecho.co.uk/jobspetition