Shoppers back campaign to keep 480 jobs in town

Darlington and Stockton Times: Lewis Cairns signs the petition flanked by MPs Phil Wilson (left) and Jenny Chapman. Lewis Cairns signs the petition flanked by MPs Phil Wilson (left) and Jenny Chapman.

DOZENS of Christmas shoppers have added their names to a burgeoning campaign to keep 480 civil service jobs in a North-East town.

The Department for Education (DfE) has plans to transfer the jobs from Mowden Hall, in Darlington, to Newcastle.

A petition to keep the jobs in Darlington is now thought to have gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

The town’s MP Jenny Chapman joined Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon, Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and a team of volunteers to collect signatures, in Darlington’s High Row, on Saturday (December 15) morning.

The DfE has identified Mowden Hall for closure because of its poor state of repair.

But staff, unions and community leaders are opposed to the move and have put forward two potential sites in Darlington, where they would prefer to see the jobs relocated – Lingfield Point and Northgate House.

Mrs Chapman said the turnout for Saturday’s campaign stop had been encouraging.

She said: "It was good to talk to Darlington residents and find out what they think of the proposal to move the jobs to another part of the region.

"Everyone we spoke to was happy to put their name to the petition and they were all aware of the issue, which was reassuring."

Coun Dixon added: "This was a very worthwhile exercise and brought to a lot of people's attention why we need to keep these jobs in the town.

"It was good to see Phil Wilson there, who was telling me that he has had a number of constituents contact him, which proves what we thought; that Mowden Hall's employment area is wider than Darlington."

Christmas shopper Michelle Walshaw is among those to support the petition.

She said: “I know these jobs are not going to be lost altogether, just transferred.

“But even so it is important to fight and try to keep them in Darlington - 480 would be a lot of jobs for the town to lose and would have an impact on people's morale, as well as the town's economy.”

The DfE said Mowden Hall would require significant re-investment at a time of severe cost-cutting, but revealed it wanted to keep an office in the North-East.

The petition, Save our Jobs, led by The Northern Echo, which aims to keep the skilled jobs in Darlington, will be presented to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, in London.

To sign the online version of the petition, go to northernecho.co.uk/jobspetition

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