Conservative leader David Cameron has slammed plans for an elected mayor for the West Midlands and accused the Government of trying to resurrect failed plans for regional government.
In a wide-ranging interview, he claimed the proposal for a city region with its own leader was an attack on local councils and outlined his view of giving power back to locals.
The Tory leader said he supported elected mayors - but a mayor might not be suitable in Birmingham.
Referring to a referendum four years ago, in which there was no clear majority for an elected mayor, he said: "I am keen on elected mayors, but only where people want them . . . the case for elected mayors never really got off the ground much in Birmingham."
Mr Cameron spoke to The Birmingham Post following his visit to the city last week, where he gave a speech about the importance of restoring power to councils.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have promised to give local authorities more freedom, and both support directly-elected mayors.
But they are sharply divided over other local government reforms.
The Government is encouraging authorities to form city regions to control policies such as transport, planning and economic development, but only if they have "strong leadership".
This could mean a West Midlands mayor, covering Coventry and Wolverhampton, as well as the rest of the Black Country and Birmingham.
Mr Cameron said this was an attempt to revive plans for regional government across England, after they were rejected by voters in a referendum in the North-east.
He said: "Sometimes the temptation in politics when you offer people ham and eggs and they say no, well you come back and say have a double ham and eggs.
"And that's what happened with regions. They were rejected in the part of the country where they were meant to be most popular, the North-east.
"The Government, having been rebuffed, is now trying the double ham and eggs option, with another attack on local government. It is a deeply mistaken agenda."
Tories would support local government - and encourage councils to follow Birmingham's example and devolve decision-making power right down to local ward councils, he said.
"There is a much more exciting agenda about reducing the nationalised targets and inspection and audits and general boss-iness of local government - that is an exciting agenda.
"There is an exciting agenda in terms of devolving power down to neighbourhoods. In Birmingham on Friday I was in Balsall Heath and gave a lecture on this. There are opportunities to devolve powers to the neighbourhoods in our cities rather than the city council holding on to so much power. That is an issue where we ought to be looking, rather than a failed regionalism."
Birmingham came close to having an elected mayor four years ago, when the council held a referendum in which 220,000 people voted.
Two systems involving a mayor were on offer, and they received 40 per cent and 13 per cent of the vote respectively. The third option - no change - received 46 per cent of the vote, and was ruled the most popular choice.
Mr Cameron also welcomed the Government's decision not to force police services to merge, and confirmed that a Conservative Government would introduce directly elected police commissioners.
He vowed to keep up the pace of change in the party, saying the Tories had to get "back into the mainstream of British politics".