A REFERENDUM is being demanded in Bolton on Greater Manchester's controversial road charging scheme.

The call has come from the Liberal Democrats who say a vote is the only real way to consult people on whether the borough should back the charges plan.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) has bid for £3billion from the Government to fund public transport improvements, including a new transport interchange at Bolton railway station and an 11-mile bus corridor between the town and Manchester.

Nearly £2billion would be repaid using proceeds from the road charge, which could cost motorists travelling into the centre of Manchester up to £5 per day. Bolton councillors agreed last July that public consultation on the issue should be as extensive as possible.

AGMA is still waiting to hear whether its bid for the £3billion has been successful. Opposition councillors claim that is because the Government does not want to rule on such a controversial issue before May's local elections.

Bolton's Lib Dem transport spokesman, Cllr David Wilkinson, said the Transport Bill, revealed last year, would not give councils as much control over bus operators as previously expected.

In a new motion, to be put to the council next Wednesday, Cllr Wilkinson states: "In view of these factors, the only extensive consultation' that would fulfil the aims of its earlier resolution is now a referendum."

Cllr Wilkinson, who represents Westhoughton south, said: "The Government is dilly-dallying. A formal consultation is not enough. A referendum needs to be held so the views of the public are clear." He was hoping that the referendum call would win cross-party support. He also called for details of the improvements to public transport to be revealed before any referendum was held.

Bolton's Conservative group leader, Cllr John Walsh, said: "I would support calls for a referendum but I don't think it is really necessary.

"Local politicians should have the courage to stand up and say no.

"The public do not want congestion charges."

Part of AGMA's bid allows for a congestion charge zone to be put in place around Bolton although Bolton Council leadership has declared it would be against such a move.