A £9.8 million bill for the congestion charge bid, which has been met using council tax payers money, has come under fire.

If successful, the bid to Whitehall would see £3 billion in public transport improvements, partly funded by a charge of up to £5 a day on roads into Manchester, which could be extended to Bolton.

Council chiefs were given £3.2 million by the Government to help fund the bid, which has included consultants reports, the delivery of leaflets to homes and a survey of 5,000 residents.

But the remaining £6.6 million has come from the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA) coffers, which are swelled by money from all ten Greater Manchester councils, including Bolton.

That money includes council tax and Government grant cash.

And the cost has been slammed by both Bolton's Conservative group - which opposed the bid, and its Liberal Democrat group - which backed it despite airing doubts about the likely benefits.

Conservative leader, Cllr John Walsh, said: "We have always complained that his bid was for too costly and that the whole process has been an absolute farce.

"There are no guarantees the bid would be successful anyway and the money could have been spent on public transport instead.

"If the Government was serious about wanting to improve public transport it would use mainstream funding, not a stealth tax like the congestion charge."

Lib-Dem leader, Cllr Roger Hayes, said: "I think it's an horrific amount of money. They should have been more careful with the costings when dealing with council tax payers money, there has been no control over it.

"If it brings in £3 billion in transport improvements it may prove to be money well spent but it's a very expensive competition to be entering.

"If we do not get it or decide we do not want to go ahead with it, it will be money down the drain."

But Bolton Council and Labour group leader, Cllr Cliff Morris, defended the cost. He said: "We were told from the beginning this would cost £10 million and it has come out at less than that.

"The GMPTA which has put together the bid, is funded by the Government as well as councils and we have not been asked to contribute any extra money for this.

"Without bidding for things like this you cannot find out whether they are good for Bolton.

"Pro-rate, with ten Greater Manchester councils contributing, Bolton has spent less than £1 million on this."

Cllr Morris, who has vowed to oppose congestion charging in Bolton, added that even without the bid, the town would have had to fund some of the public transport improvements proposed itself.

The bid could see a new bus and rail interchange near Bolton railway station and an 11-mile bus corridor direct to Manchester.

Eight of the region's ten councils, including Bolton, last month voted in favour of lodging the bid.