CIVIL servants working at a closure-threatened Government office in the region are preparing to vote on strike action.

The Department for Education (DfE) wants to move 480 jobs from Mowden Hall, in Darlington, to Newcastle.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are to begin voting on Monday (January 28) for strikes and other forms of industrial action over plans for cuts that threaten 1,000 jobs nationally.

Five other DfE offices, as well as Mowden, are also under threat, the PCS says.

The union believes education secretary Michael Gove is using the department as an ideological test-bed for wider civil service cuts and to help drive through more academies and free schools.

Last week, it emerged that senior civil servants in the DfE played a game using party hats to share their plans for what to cut.

Describing it as a "monumental loss of judgement", the union's negotiations officer for DfE, Kathy Prendiville, wrote to the department's permanent secretary to complain.

The union is seeking urgent negotiations over the planned job cuts, office closures and a performance management system that the DfE's own figures show is discriminatory.

The union announced last week that a new national ballot will be held in February of its 250,000 public sector members over cuts to pay, pensions, jobs and terms and conditions.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With plans for a 50 per cent budget cut education secretary Michael Gove is playing politics with people's livelihoods and the education of our children and future generations."

The DfE is drawing up a shortlist of alternative locations for the Mowden Hall jobs, which is expected to include at least one of two options in Darlington.

More than 1,100 people have signed The Northern Echo’s petition to keep the jobs in Darlington.