A VICTORY for the people over the establishment.

The words of one anti-congestion charge group, following the public’s 4 to 1 rejection of the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) scheme.

More than a million people in Greater Manchester voted in the largest referendum of its kind. While many expected a No vote, few could have predicted such widespread antipathy to the project, with all ten districts voting heavily against the TIF project.

The Yes promoters had claimed that only one in ten households would pay the charge: but as it turned out, barely one in ten of the electorate supported it.

Campaigners and politicians are now calling on the Government to give Manchester the money to improve public transport, but without the strings of a congestion charge attached.

Council leaders will meet tomorrow to officially pronounce their verdict on the TIF bid, which looks certain to be the death sentence.

Bury Council was meeting last night to formally decide how council leader Bob Bibby should vote. But the Tory leader said he was committed to following the views of the Bury public.

“I have been opposed to the principle of congestion charging from the start,” he said.He added: “The Government has been trying to push us into adopting an unfair charge and surely now cannot leave Greater Manchester to the cold winds of the recession. I call upon the Government to meet its obligation to the 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.”

Among the prominent Yes voters was David Chaytor, MP for Bury North.

“I don’t think the vote reflects opposition to the principle of road pricing.,” he said. “I think there’s a growing understanding in the long term that some form of road pricing is the way to avoid our cities seizing up in gridlock.”

He added: “Everyone needs to think carefully on what the next step should be. We are now faced with more years of inadequate public transport and rising levels of congestion and pollutiony.

David Nuttall, his Tory opponent at the next general election, said: “This is great news for hard-working families who are already struggling to make ends meet. The Government should now work with local councils to see how the money that was already set aside for public transport can best be used."

And his Bury South counterpart, Whitefield councillor Michelle Wiseman, added: “We were promised effective public transport in 1997 under Labour, and people feel they have paid time and time again in increased taxes since then. It’s about time that they delivered.”

The result was also welcomed by Prestwich resident Geoffrey Berg, who forced Bury Council to hold a referendum for an elected mayor who would oppose the congestion charge.

“I am glad that we forced the mayoral referendum, which helped pave the way to a referendum on the charge,” he said. “The people spoke against the opposition of a majority of the council leaders who would otherwise have pushed this through.”

Lord Peter Smith, leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), said: “It is always a huge challenge to win any referendum and this one was always going to be difficult.

“I am sure Greater Manchester remains united in the desire to see the city succeed. We will now have to work towards this without the benefit of £3 billion investment in public transport which would have given a stimulus to our economy in these difficult times.”