The political slanging match over congestion charge plans for Greater Manchester began within minutes of Transport Minister Ruth Kelly's announcement.

The MP for Bolton West, confirmed to the House of Commons that the Government backed, "in principle", a congestion charging scheme for Manchester.

The announcement, according to the leader of the Conservative Group in Bolton, will lead to the Labour Party - and Ms Kelly - being punished by voters at the next General Election.

Cllr John Walsh claims a charge of up to £5 a day during rush hour periods for motorists commuting to Manchester would cost workers a massive £1,200 a year.

"It will hit the lower paid, such as shop workers and others who don't have a choice of when they travel," he said.

"On wages of £15,000 a year, it is a huge slice of take-home pay. We will be fighting congestion charges all the way."

Cllr Walsh accused the Government of introducing another stealth tax and claimed Ms Kelly has effectively written off her political career.

The reaction of the Liberal Democrat Group was less vociferous - although leader Roger Hayes refused to give his support to the scheme "We have to see what is in it for Bolton," he said. "Things are never as simple as they appear. It depends upon the balance."

He said he wanted to study what impact the charging would have on the borough's economy and how much control local authorities would have over issues such as bus services.

But the announcement by Ms Kelly was welcomed by the Labour council leader, Cliff Morris.

"I am delighted that the Government has agreed the Transport Innovation Fund bid," said Cllr Morris. "It would see significant investment in public transport in Bolton over the next few years and support the economic growth of Bolton and Greater Manchester.

"I am pleased to confirm that no element of the proposed package involves congestion charging in Bolton, now or in the future, which is something that Bolton Council would never support."