“DO you agree with the Transport Innovation Fund proposals?”

That is the question that could be put to residents in a referendum on a congestion charge scheme for Greater Manchester.

It was drawn up by Sir Neil McIntosh, the independent returning officer for the referendum, with legal advice and guidance from the Electoral Commission’s established guidelines.

The proposed question will be submitted to the next meeting of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) executive board on October 31, where the leaders of the ten councils will be asked to approve it.

Ballot papers will be sent out in late November with a short leaflet explaining the proposals, which would see a £3 billion investment in public transport through the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).

But two-thirds of the money would be paid back by charging motorists up to £5 a day to drive into the city centre during peak times on weekdays.

The ballot papers will include information saying: ‘Please read the leaflet enclosed with this ballot paper which provides details of the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund proposals.

‘These involve both major investment in public transport improvements in Greater Manchester and a weekday, peak time only, congestion charging scheme. Congestion charging would only be introduced after 80 per cent of the public transport improvements are in place and not before the summer of 2013’.

Residents will then be able to choose whether to vote for or against the proposals.

Sir Neil McIntosh said: “I believe this is a fair, clear and balanced question. In drawing it up I had to ensure that it accurately reflected fundamental aspects of the proposals and did not lead people in one direction or the other. I concluded that a straight-forward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question was the easiest to understand. However, I consider that it is also necessary for this to be accompanied by accurate neutral information explaining the proposals.”

The proposed question has been welcomed by Councillor Bob Bibby, leader of Bury Council. He said: “I am quite happy with the question. It was shown to me before it was announced and I think it is the best that we could get. We could have asked for the congestion charge to be mentioned in it as well, but I think the question is acceptable.”

A spokesman for the Yes Campaign said: “Our understanding is that the ballot paper mentions both the massive investment in public transport and the limited, peak-time only congestion charge that pays for it. It’s surely now in everyone’s interest that the question is decided by Sir Neil McIntosh. Now the question has been published we should be getting on with a debate about the real issues.”

They also pointed out that self-employed workers will be able to claim the cost of the congestion charge as part of their travel expenses, making it tax deductible.

But Prestwich resident Geoffrey Berg, a campaigner against the charge, raised concerns about the information being sent to voters.

He said: “I am very suspicious of the idea that there can be neutral information included with the postal voting papers. It wasn’t done in Bury’s mayoral referendum and it isn’t done in local or general elections. The information is unlikely to mention the indirect effects of the congestion charge, the impact on house prices, and the fact that any costs of implementing the scheme will be met by councils and therefore council tax-payers.”