GOVERNMENT backing for the congestion charge has sparked anger among Bolton businesses.

Many firms, especially those with high transport costs, say the charges will make it difficult for them to continue running at a profit.

Direct Courier Solutions (DCS), based in Waters Meeting Road, Bolton, specialises in same-day delivery courier services, often into Manchester.

Director Mike Morton said paying the charge would be unavoidable for his drivers.

"It's just another obstacle to doing business," he said.

"Passing on additional cost to the customers is always hard, so we have to absorb it, which hurts our margins.

"At present, it is about £30 for a same-day delivery into Manchester. If we then say it's £35 with the congestion charge, the mindset is that the customers will not want to pay it. They will probably ring round and try and find a better deal."

The Greater Manchester Momentum Group (GMMG) has been set up to oppose the charge. It comprises companies from around Manchester who will face higher overheads because of the charges.

A spokesman said: "We believe everyone, from the business community to ordinary working people in Greater Manchester, should have a right to vote on this critical issue. Now is the time for the Government to take a lead in this debate."

One member is Lostock-based Goremead, which is the holding company for Cohens Chemists. It has 91 shops across the North-west and says the charge will have a negative impact on several levels.

Logistics manager Paul Hinchcliffe said: "We have around 250 staff who may have to pay the charge to get into work.

"We also have drivers who deliver medicines to people who are sick or infirm. We can't put up prices because we are limited by the amount the Government sets for NHS prescriptions. As such, we would have to absorb the congestion charge."

Nigel McFarlane, local manager for Bolton at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "Some significant reservations have been expressed in relation to the proposed implementation of a congestion charge.

"Firms will now have to decide whether the proposed charge is a price worth paying for the promised level of investment.

"It is vital that all businesses have access to the details of the intended public transport improvements and congestion charge, so they can make an informed and reasoned decision on whether to support the proposed investment."