THE people have spoken - and it's a big NO to the congestion charge.

Residents voted four to one against the Transport Innovation Fund scheme, which aimed to transform public transport in Greater Manchester.

In Bury, the vote was 16,563 in favour, and 64,001 against, on a turnout of 57.4 per cent of borough residents.

For the plan to get put through, seven out of the 10 Greater Manchester districts would have had to vote 'yes'.

But all ten Greater Manchester districts voted 'no', with a million votes cast in the largest referendum of its kind.

Results were announced shortly after noon today, Friday December 12, by returning officer Sir Neil McIntosh, after a mammoth counting session at Manchester Central, formerly G-Mex.

The TIF scheme was to bring £2.8 billion for public transport improvements, but £1.2 billion was to be borrowed and paid back through a weekday, peak-time congestion charge in two zones around the city.

The people's vote is not binding, however.

Council leaders of the ten councils have to confirm that they support the vote, though it would be highly unusual for them not to.

Bury Council leader Bob Bibby has consistently said he would support the outcome of the referendum.

Representatives from all 10 councils will now meet next Friday, December 19, to vote on the TIF bid, and unless seven of them vote 'yes', the plan will be formally killed off.

Coun Bibby said: ""The government has been trying to push us into adopting an unfair charge and it surely now cannot leave Greater Manchester to the cold winds of the recession.

"I call upon the government to meet its obligation to their city region and ensure that the £1.5 billion grant from the Department of Transport is allocated to the Manchester authorities to spend on improving the public transport infrastructure in Greater Manchester at this critical time."