Bishop Auckland people are supporting a new attempt to set up a town council as local government reforms draw nearer.

Volunteers are touring the town collecting the 1,000 names needed to show the community favours the move, which requires approval from the Government.

Campaigner Dorothy Davison said supporters aimed to make the town a better place.

She said: "I grew up in Bishop Auckland and noticed a big deterioration when I came back.

"It used to be the market town where everybody came to shop, and we would like to see some of that coming back."

Petitions are being taken around four wards, Henknowle, Cockton Hill, Woodhouse Close and the town centre, and a steering group has been formed.

Mrs Davison, a retired social worker, said: "We don't want it to be political, we just want to do some good."

Willington people have also formed a ten-member steering group to drive forward plans for their own town council.

The new authority, representing at least Willington central and west end wards, and including the outlying villages of Page Band, Oakenshaw and Sunnybrow, could be operating by May 2005.

About 40 people attended a recent public meeting at Willington Methodist Church, which was called by Willington Community Partnership.

Chairman Brian Myers said he was encouraged by the positive reaction.

He said: "The general consensus was that we proceed to the next stage to put together a formal submission for a town council.

"I feel that local decisions should be taken by local people and, with the forthcoming local government reform, this is more important than ever.

"In County Durham, 375 councillors could be reduced to 100, that is not good enough for local democracy.

"Most people at the meeting were fully supportive. No-one spoke up to oppose the idea, so we will continue to consult with the community and move on."

A further meeting will be held at Willington Community Resource Centre on Tuesday, September 30, at 7pm.