Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 12:10 UK

Road charge opposition defeated

Traffic in Manchester
Three councils have rejected proposals to introduce congestion charging

Attempts by Conservative councillors in Bolton to withdraw the authority's support for the congestion charge have been rejected.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors defeated the motion at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Instead, councillors voted to hold a public referendum on the issue once all the facts are available.

Three of the region's 10 authorities have rejected the plan which could see motorists charged up to 5 a day.

'Fundamental issue'

The road pricing scheme, proposed by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), involves two charging rings - one at the M60, the other close to Manchester city centre.

There must be a two-thirds majority from the 10 councils for the plans to proceed.

Drivers will pay a deposit for an electric tag, which will trigger charges on journeys into the city in the morning and evening rush periods.

If the plan goes ahead it will be offset by 3bn of public transport improvements, including a Metrolink expansion, partly funded by revenue from the charges.

I'm disappointed that Labour and the Liberal Democrat councillors are not prepared to put Bolton first, that they are prepared to run the risk of others determining congestion charging within Bolton
Cllr John Walsh, leader of the Conservatives at Bolton Council

Cllr John Walsh, leader of the Conservatives at Bolton Council, said: "I'm disappointed that Labour and the Liberal Democrat councillors are not prepared to put Bolton first, that they are prepared to run the risk of others determining congestion charging within Bolton.

"It's a real threat, it's one that we recognise but one that we oppose."

However, Bob Ronson, a Liberal Democrat councillor, said: "We need to know the details and we need to know how good it will be for Bolton before we make a decision.

"We would then say to the public that this is what's on offer, what do you think? And if the public say no, we don't want it, fine."

Support concept

Labour Cllr Nick Peel added: "We all supported the concept of a referendum or a local poll on what is a fundamental issue - one of the biggest issues facing people.

"We made that commitment. We see no reason to abandon that commitment and we will abide by the results of that poll."

A spokesperson for Manchester Against Road Tolls said: "Under the present law, no council can be forced into having tolls on its roads, but it has been suggested that if six or seven out of the 10 councils still want road tolls, then the others will somehow be forced to do the same.

"Bolton and some of the other councils who support road tolls seem to be living in a fantasy world, as they seem to think that the tolls will not affect their borough."

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