Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 13:46 UK

C-charge vote talks put on hold

Traffic in Manchester
The plan will be offset by public transport improvements

A decision on whether people in Manchester will get a public referendum on plans for a congestion charge has been put off for a month.

The leaders of all 10 authorities in Greater Manchester agreed on Friday to formally discuss the idea in July.

Manchester leader Sir Richard Leese has said he would back a vote - if all the councils agreed to abide by the result.

Government funding towards almost 3bn of public transport investment depends on the charge being introduced in 2013.

Bury, Stockport and Trafford councils are all opposed to the peak-time charge, which would be capped at 10 a day.

Important decisions need to be made across Greater Manchester
Lord Peter Smith, AGMA

Previously, it was thought a two-thirds majority by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) would trigger the application for the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) cash.

That would depend on seven authorities agreeing and although he was previously reluctant to discuss a referendum, Sir Richard says he now believes it is the fairest option.

During the meeting on Friday, authority leaders discussed the scope of the public consultation, which starts next month.

Speaking afterwards, Lord Peter Smith, chair of AGMA, told the BBC that it was important that everyone's voice was heard.

"Important decisions need to be made across Greater Manchester for the 3bn scheme and whether it is supported by congestion charging," he said.

"So we're going to ask people that and we're going to consult on a number of details of the scheme because we think it's important to get feedback before we actually set everything in stone."

'Bizarre' decision

Campaign group Manchester Against Road Tolls said it was "bizarre" that AGMA had agreed to the TIF proposals proceeding but had not definitely decided on the referendum issue.

"The impression given is that the road tolls plan is to be steam rollered through any obstacles," a spokesman said.

Earlier, Labour MP for Blackley, Graham Stringer, who opposes the idea of the charge, told the BBC it was clear the councils were "at loggerheads".

"If it's going to be a vote of everybody in Greater Manchester we need to know on what basis. We need to move away from this propaganda stage."

Under the scheme, drivers entering and leaving the city at peak times will be charged for crossing the M60 and a second ring around the city centre.


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