TENS of thousands of people in Bolton have yet to vote on the congestion charge, just days before the polls close.

Only one in four people in the borough have returned their ballot papers — the third worst turnout in Greater Manchester.

Political leaders in the town issued a rallying call urging people to vote before Thursday’s 10pm deadline on a deal which could see £3 billion spent on public transport improvements in return for a charge to enter Manchester.

Cllr Roger Hayes, leader of Bolton’s Liberal Democrat group, described the 27.5 per cent turn-out so far as “disappointing” and warned that people were risking missing out on having their say.

He said: “The trouble is that coming up to Christmas people are very busy. It’s disappointing but I can’t say I’m totally surprised.

“I hope we get a turn out in the end of at least 40 per cent because anything else means it won’t give it the legitimacy that is needed.

“I think there will be a bit of a spurt towards the end but election experience shows that the majority of people who vote do so early because they care about it.

“If not, the ballot papers tend to get forgotten about. But people need to realise this is a big issue. It’s a question of do we want all these transport improvements and are we prepared to pay for it?”

But Cllr John Walsh, leader of the town’s Conservative group, which is against the congestion charge, said he was confident turn out would almost reach one in every two voters by Thursday.

He said: “The figures so far prove that there is no enthusiasm in Bolton for the congestion charge but we are still encouraging people to turn-out and vote ‘no’.

“We want the biggest possible ‘no’ vote to show very clearly that the Bolton public are opposed to it. I still think there will be at least 40 per cent so I’m not alarmed. Experience shows that in most elections, a third vote immediately, a third within 10 days and a third right at the death.”

Figures show that 55,000 people in Bolton have voted out of a possible 200,000 who are eligible to vote.

Only Manchester and Wigan have worse turn-out so far. Tameside has the highest turn-out with 37.3 per cent. The results will be announced on Friday, December 12.