A BID to bring an elected mayor to a North-East town has reached the halfway point.

The Darlington Referendum Group is aiming to collect a big enough petition to force the borough council to hold a referendum on whether town residents want an elected mayor.

A "yes" vote would lead to a change in the council constitution so someone with similar powers to Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon and Hartlepool mayor Stuart Drummond would be elected in Darlington.

In order to force a referendum, a petition with signatures from ten per cent of those on the electoral roll in the town would need to be handed to Darlington Borough Council. That equates to just under 4,000 signatures.

The Referendum Group has been gathering its petition since March.

The group has collected signatures on the town's High Row and has also sent sheets across the borough, where members have been knocking door-to-door.

Clive Owen, of the Referendum Group, said: "We have about 2,000 signatures, so we are halfway there. We have recruited some new members of the group and we are looking for a referendum to be held early next year."

If this all goes to plan and people in Darlington do vote in favour of an elected mayor, then this person is likely to be elected in summer 2007.

The issue of directly elected mayors has been thrust into the spotlight with the Government putting the Tees Valley forward as a city region.

It could result in one elected mayor for Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton.

The Conservatives have pledged to fight plans for city regions, saying they are a backdoor attempt to get regional assemblies - which have been rejected by voters.

Mr Owen said the Referendum Group would discuss the idea of a Tees Valley mayor.

He said: "The Government may pull the ground from under us anyway and decide everybody has to have a referendum."

To sign the petition, go to www.darlingtonreferendum. org