Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 12:16 UK

Under a third support road charge

Members of the public on proposed Manchester congestion charge

Fewer than a third of people in Greater Manchester support plans for a congestion charge, according to an independent poll, the BBC has learned.

Last week the government approved a two-ring peak-time charging scheme for drivers entering and leaving the city.

It would also be combined with a 2.8bn investment designed to create a "world-class public transport system".

But according to the poll of 1,000 people in Manchester, 62% were against the charge and 86% wanted a referendum.

One person surveyed said: "It is a big decision on an important issue for the city and everyone should have a say."

If the scheme goes ahead, Manchester will become the first major British city outside London to introduce large-scale congestion charging.

Will the people in the Manchester city region be given a similar chance to vote on this?
John McGoldrick, anti-toll campaigner

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly outlined the government's provisional support for a two-ring scheme - the outer one at the M60, the inner one close to the city centre.

The charge would be in place from 0700 to 0930 and 1600 to 1830 on weekdays, excluding bank holidays, and drivers would be charged up to 5 from 2013.

The Tories accused Ms Kelly of "bullying" the people of Manchester into accepting the scheme, which will need final approval from city councillors.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers has called for a referendum on the plans.

The results of the survey, by polling company Populus, would seem to back her call but supporters of the charge said the questions in the survey only referred to road pricing and made no mention of the money to improve public transport.

'Different prospect'

If they had, it was claimed the results would have been different.

Chief executive of Manchester City Council Howard Bernstein said: "When you ask people about road pricing per se these are the types of answers you get.

"But we're talking about something very different - a 3bn transport package along with the charge.

"That's the overall proposition that is being developed and I think most people regard that as a sensible proposition worthy of serious debate - this is a very different package approach."

The Manchester Against Road Tolls campaign group drew parallels between the poll and a referendum carried out on a similar scheme in Edinburgh.

Spokesman John McGoldrick said: "Despite what is suggested by advocates of this congestion charge scheme, the proposed tolls in Edinburgh were also presented as a package with transport spending.

"The people there were subject to a massive spin campaign from the city council, and the ballot paper was accompanied by a glossy leaflet showing all the goodies that the city would get if they said yes.

"Will the people in the Manchester city region be given a similar chance to vote on this?"

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