BURY people will not be given a vote on congestion charging - even though their neighbours will be.

Town hall bosses in Bolton have agreed to hold a referendum of their residents, and, to save money, are looking at having it on May 1, the same day as the local elections.

By contrast, Bury politicians said last year that it would be illegal to hold a referendum on the matter. They did this after taking legal advice, but have refused to say how much they paid for this advice on the grounds of "commercial sensitivity".

The Government is deciding whether to approve Greater Manchester's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) bid for £3 billion to improve public transport and infrastructure. Only 40 per cent of the money would be a grant, with the rest borrowed and paid back over 30 years through a congestion charge, possibly £5 a day to cross the city during weekday peak times.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) has said that there will be "a full formal consultation exercise" if the Government approves the TIF bid, but does not specify what this will be.

Bury Council has promised to oppose any TIF scheme which includes congestion charging, but still refuses to give local residents a vote.

Council leader Bob Bibby said: "The council's approach to this has been consistent throughout and will not change as a result of the actions of another authority.

"There are many positives to the TIF that we are in favour of. The proposed investment in public transport is a way forward for the economic growth in the borough, but we have made it clear we are against congestion charging in principle.

"The form of the AGMA-wide consultation has not yet been finalised, and we will press to ensure that it is rigorous and fully appreciates the views of the people of Bury."

This stance has been ridiculed by Geoffrey Berg, local campaigner for Manchester Against Road Tolls (MART). When the council refused to hold a poll last year, he collected a petition which means Bury will now vote on whether to have a directly elected mayor to oppose the charge.

"This is the most important issue in local government in over 30 years," he said. "This will cost many people more than the council tax, and they are the people who should have a say. In Bolton people are being offered a referendum, so there's no excuse for Bury not to do the same."

MART are assembling a petition for an elected mayor in Bolton, but Mr Berg said they would stop collecting signatures if Bolton's referendum went ahead.