THE countdown has begun to a massive public vote on transport plans which could affect every motorist and commuter in Bolton.

Greater Manchester’s 10 council leaders yesterday approved details of congestion charge proposals and public transport investment, paving the way for a referendum on the plans next month.

Ballot papers will now be sent to every household and business in Bolton and the rest of the region by November 28 with voting closing on December 11.

They will carry the question: “Do you agree with the Transport Innovation Fund proposals?” followed by “yes” and “no” options.

The ballot paper will also explain that the congestion charge would only apply on weekdays at peak times and would not be introduced until 80 per cent of the proposed public transport improvements are in place, no earlier than mid-2013.

The wording on the voting cards caused bitter debate at yesterday’s meeting.

Susan Williams, the leader of Trafford Council and the Conservative Party’s candidate for the Bolton West Parliamentary seat, joined forces with Stockport and Bury to call for the words “congestion charge” to be included in the question.

Their proposed amendment was voted down by the other seven leaders, including Bolton Council’s Cliff Morris.

Cllr Williams said afterwards that congestion charging should be in the question because “it is the most contentious part of the proposals” and added that she thought that is why it had been left out.

But Cllr Morris said he was happy with the question and the information people will receive with their ballot papers.

He said: “The public vote is the way forward and I have always been on the side saying we are going to have it.

“As long as everyone knows about it and there is an explanation that they will have the chance to read, it is fair.”

Cllr Morris repeated his promise that when all 10 councils come to a final vote on whether to accept or reject the proposals, Bolton’s would reflect the outcome of the public referendum.

He said: “If people say ‘no’ my view will have to be ‘no’.”