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'No' vote predicted for referendum

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The odds of a 'no' vote in a referendum on Britain's biggest congestion charge zone have been slashed by a bookmakers, as it claims the results will be a "resounding no".

More than 1.94 million postal ballot packs have been sent to voters across the Greater Manchester region. The residents will have their say on the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund proposals, which involves the introduction of a £5 weekday, peak-time only congestion charge.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes have slashed odds on a 'no' vote from 8/11 to 2/5. Spokesman Nick Weinberg said of the results announcement, which is due at noon on Friday: "Judging by the weight of money, we're heading for a resounding 'no'."

A massive publicity campaign has been waged by both 'yes' and 'no' groups in the run up to the referendum, and in the two weeks that the postal ballot forms have been sent out.

The 'yes' campaign says the region has a once and for all chance to get billions invested in local transport - the 'no' campaign says the plans are "badly thought through" and will cost the region jobs as the congestion charge will restrict access to the city centre.

The result will be followed closely in Whitehall which will want to know if voters are willing to back road charging, as it may signal plans to develop congestion charging across the UK in the future.

The charge, if approved, will cover about 80 square miles, and will cost drivers up to £5 a day to visit the city. The scheme also involves major investment in public transport in Greater Manchester.

© Press Association 2008