SHADOW Chancellor Ed Balls has urged council chiefs not to cave in to George Osborne’s “foolish” demand for a ‘metro mayor’ in return for a big devolution package.

The Chancellor has issued the ultimatum to cities before any deal to hand over major powers – stalling talks with West and South Yorkshire.

But in an interview with the Daily Echo, Mr Balls – a West Yorkshire MP himself – has accused the Government of threatening a “second-class deal” for city-regions that refuse to do likewise.

And he is calling on Hampshire council leaders to stick to their guns, promising a stronger devolution package after the General Election, if Labour wins.

Council leaders in the south, including Southampton’s Simon Letts and Portsmouth’s Donna Jones, have opened talks on creating a ‘combined authority’, the first step required.

County council leader Roy Perry has joined them in the bid and held top level talks with ministers.

They hope it will become reality within a year, with a single board deciding how money is spent – possibly for an area as wide as from the Waterside to Havant.

But Mr Balls said: “George Osborne is saying ‘my door is open as long as you agree to my blueprint’ – which is counter-productive, obstinate and foolish.

“There is a General Election coming. It’s wise for people to hold out for a better deal.”

Cllr Royston Smith, Conservative opposition leader for Southampton City Council, accused Mr Balls of being contrary.

He said: “The coalition Government is suggesting some way of pressing ahead with devolving powers and he is saying it is not good enough. It’s a knee jerk reaction.

“At least George Osborne’s door is open. Ed Balls’ door is open and there is nothing there.”

Cllr Smith added he was not opposed to the idea of a metro mayor who he said would not be an all powerful Boris Johnson mayor.

Daily Echo: Southampton City Council leader Royston Smith and HMS Astute

Cllr Royston Smith

But county council leader Roy Perry said while he rarely agreed with Mr Balls, on this matter he found himself in agreement.

He said: “I do not think a directly elected mayor would be appropriate in an area such as Hampshire which is not metropolitan nor all urban.

“I do however think people of Hampshire are capable of running more of our local affairs.

“We are every bit as competent as the north. There should be more local determination but that does not need a mayor.

Daily Echo: Cllr Roy Perry

Cllr Roy Perry

“The thought of an elected mayor from Portsmouth or Southampton determining policies in say Romsey, Winchester or Fareham would not be appropriate in my opinion as this is a diverse area.

“A mayor, accountable every four years, could ride rough shod over areas where he may not have electoral support.”