Manchester’s 'Yes' campaign for congestion charging and £3bn spending on public transport was this week boosted by public support from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
In a letter to a local newspaper, published on Monday, Ferguson said that a yes vote offered "a once in a lifetime opportunity to put Greater Manchester in the premier league for public transport – so don’t score an own goal".
Greater Manchester is holding a referendum on its bid for £1.5bn from the government’s Transportation Innovation Fund (TIF), which will help fund £3bn of public transport improvements and a congestion charge. The result of the postal ballot will be revealed on Friday 12 December.
Ferguson added that most supporters travelled to United’s 76,000-seater Old Trafford stadium by public transport which stands to benefit if voters approve the city’s TIF bid. "The proposed investment in Greater Manchester’s public transport network will make getting to games safer, faster and more enjoyable for all our supporters and visitors," said Ferguson.
A spokesman for Manchester’s "Yes" campaign said: "Sir Alex carries an awful lot of moral authority in this city so it’s a big help. It will help get supporters to vote yes in particular areas."
The public sector union, Unison, which represents thousands of people in Manchester, is also expected to announce its support for the "Yes" vote along with another big employer – the Co-op Group.
Meanwhile, the "No" campaign pointed to an exit poll from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in which 63% said they would vote no. Concerns about the voting process have led to fears that whatever the vote is, legal challenges could follow from the losing side.
A spokeswoman for the “No” campaign told NCE that it was sent a leaked email this week showing that thousands people were not on the electoral register and were not eligible to vote. In some cases people had been sent two voting forms, she said.
Manchester Labour MP for Blackley Graham Stringer, who opposes the TIF package, told NCE he had "serious concerns" about having a postal vote which was open to vote rigging practices. "Postal votes have already been discredited for use in General Elections," he said.