CRITICS of controversial congestion charge proposals claim to have secured the signatures of hundreds of Bolton residents in a petition against the plans.

Members of Bolton’s Conservative Group presented the petition to shoppers in the town centre on Saturday.

The petition is part of the party’s campaign across Greater Manchester to oppose the charge in the run-up to next month’s referendum.

Cllr John Walsh, Conservative Group leader, said: “The response was staggering, with very few people refusing to sign. I could count on the fingers of one hand the few who said they supported congestion charging.

“Many went out of their way to sign.”

A maximum daily charge of £5 for Manchester city centre and inside the M60 motorway has been proposed as part of an application for the Government to invest £3 billion in public transport for the area.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities’ executive board, which is made up of the leaders of the region’s 10 councils, has called for a referendum on the controversial issue, with ballot papers being sent out by November 28.

Cllr Walsh said many people saw the charge as a “stealth tax”.

“I was never in doubt the congestion charge was unpopular, but after today I am even more convinced that when the poll closes on December 11, the vote will be so decisive it will kill congestion charging once and for all,” he said.

The result of the referendum will be announced on December 12.