LOCAL politicians are queueing up to denounce plans for congestion charging in Greater Manchester.

Liberal Democrats have even called on the people of Bury to oppose this "madness" and are urging residents to sign their online petition (www.burysays no.com) Both the Lib Dems and Labour have criticised the plans put forward by Greater Manchester leaders for the £3 billion scheme. The project aims to improve public transport through new tram lines and buses, but also impose a congestion charge in two zones: an outer zone following the M60, and an inner zone around the city centre, which would operate at rush hours and cost £5 a day.

Bury's Lib Dems say charging will hit people travelling to Manchester to work, divide Whitefield and Prestwich, and fail to tackle pollution near the motorway. They also say the scheme does not provide sufficient public transport to the borough, in particular the north; and is too vague about parking schemes, rat runs, routes and collection costs.

Party leader Tim Pickstone said: "To charge people for driving between Whitefield and Prestwich at peak times ignores the reality of many people's lives. The aim might be to reduce congestion in Manchester, but under this scheme people would have to pay to make a local journey nowhere near the city centre. People shouldn't have to pay to take their children to school, use local shops or community facilities."

Coun Pickstone, who represents Holyrood in Prestwich, added: "The promised improvements in public transport are woefully inadequate and will not encourage large numbers of people to leave their cars at home. The scheme does nothing to ease standstill traffic on the M60 which causes this area to have the worst air pollution in the North West.

"Nobody believes that a massive increase in public transport is going to be in place in five years' time. We've had to wait 15 years for the promise of a few more trams on the Metrolink!"

They have tabled a motion for Wednesday's council meeting calling for alternatives Labour have also tabled a motion. They say that the four tests devised by Greater Manchester leaders to allow the bid have not been successfully incorporated. They say Bury Council should carry out its own consultation with the public and, only following that, give its official response.