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Regional daily forces Gove U-turn over job cuts plan

A regional daily has forced a government U-turn after a campaign to keep nearly 500 jobs on its patch.

The Northern Echo launched its Save Our Jobs campaign last November after the Department for Education announced that 480 workers would leave Mowden Hall, on the edge of Darlington, because it was too expensive to repair.

Under the plans, which were part of a wider review by Education Secretary Michael Gove, the DfE said the staff would be moved to another base in the North-East, possibly in Newcastle.

But the department announced yesterday that the jobs would remain in Darlington at a new purpose-built office block in the town, where workers would move in November 2014.

The paper’s campaign saw more than 1,200 people sign a petition to keep the jobs in Darlington, which was presented to Downing Street by Echo deputy business editor Steven Hugill, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson.

Editor Peter Barron said: “We are absolutely delighted. It was a huge threat to Darlington. The loss of nearly 500 jobs would have had a big impact on the local economy.

“Our campaign was to bang the drum for Darlington and to present its case. We weren’t sure how it would go.

“There was a distinct possibility that the jobs would be lost but we thought it was our responsibility to do what we could to fight to keep the jobs. We are delighted that the Department for Education has listened to us.”

Councillor Bill Dixon, the leader of Darlington Council said: “This is great news. Mowden Hall jobs are staying in Darlington in a new development behind the town hall.”

The plans to close the Darlington base were part of a wider review, which would see DfE sites across the country reduced from 12 to six and around 1,000 jobs axed nationally.