UNIONS fighting to save 450 jobs threatened by the closure of of a Runcorn Government department say they now feel ‘more hopeful’.

Halton MP Derek Twigg, Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans and Halton Council chief executive David Parr met Permanent Secretary Chris Wormold to discuss plans to close the Department of Education and move 220 staff to Manchester.

They hope to see him again and meet an Education Minister in the New Year.

Richard Masters, Runcorn branch secretary of the PCS union said: “It is positive. We have been listened to and taken seriously.

“We are continuing to campaign and raise awareness of the effect this closure will have on Halton Lea.

“We also want to find out the effect it will have on commuters and people who live around Runcorn East railway station if hundreds more workers have to use the train.”

He said unions have no plans for industrial action.

Mr Masters added: “We are consulting with staff, trade unions, the council and MPs.

“We are looking at the socio economic effect this closure could have on the local community and our employees and value for money.”

The Government says the closure will save money but unions claim the cost of the Runcorn building is £148 per sqm compared to £553 per sqm for Manchester.

Halton MP Derek Twigg said: “We could lose almost 500 jobs if the whole building closes. This would be a significant blow to the Halton economy.

“We need to see a Minister to highlight the social and economic consequences. There is no financial case for closing Runcorn “.