THE fight to keep hundreds of jobs in a town has received a fresh boost after MPs and a council leader backed a petition.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, have signed a Northern Echo-led campaign to stop 400 civil service posts being transferred from Mowden Hall, in Darlington, to Newcastle.

Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, also supported the petition to keep the highly-skilled Department for Education (DfE) posts in the town.

A decision on workers’ futures is expected in March, with Mowden Hall earmarked for closure due to its poor condition.

The Northern Echo’s campaign, which has already attracted more than 800 signatures, will be presented to Education Secretary Michael Gove at Downing Street.

Mrs Chapman and Mr Dixon this week met with Chris Wormald, from the DfE, to emphasise the importance of keeping the jobs in Darlington.

They also discussed potential new locations to house staff in Darlington, which include Lingfield Point and Northgate House.

She said: “We are doing everything we can to keep these jobs in Darlington.

“Moving to Newcastle is just not an option for a lot of people and we will keep up our fight to make the DfE stay in the town.

“The workers are extremely heartened by the amount of effort that has been put in to keep their jobs in Darlington, and we must continue that good work.”

Mrs Chapman added she would be raising the issue of safeguarding jobs with Mr Gove in the House of Commons on Monday (November 3).

Mr Wilson said any relocation of posts from Darlington would have far-reaching consequences.

He said: “We need to keep these jobs in Darlington because the impact of them being taken away will not just be felt in the town, but right across south Durham and the Tees Valley.”

A DfE spokesman said the department was committed to retaining an office in the North-East but had to cut costs.

He said: "We are reducing our head count and merging offices, but Mowden Hall requires significant investment.

“We will target our staff time and money on only our top priorities, cutting red tape and concentrating on the work that adds the most value.”

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