A FLOWER shop owner was bowled over by Labour’s Ed Balls yesterday and gave him a red rose to wear in his lapel.

Sandra Riley, of The Flower Box in Chester’s Forum Shopping Centre, described the shadow chancellor as “lovely” and vowed to vote for his party.

Mr Balls swept into the city in support of parliamentary candidate Chris Matheson as the final week of campaigning got under way ahead of next Thursday’s General Election.

On a trip to the market, he told Mrs Riley: “I will cut your business rates and make sure more people walking through here are feeling better off with money in their pockets.”

A beaming Mrs Riley then told the Leader: “I believe him and I think he’ll do his best for us. He seems lovely. I’m giving him a red rose.”

Mr Balls, who made sure he returned to pick up his red rose after a tour of the market, then met owners of small businesses in the Watergate Deli in Watergate Street.

Asked by this newspaper how he intended to protect small businesses from the influx of supermarkets and large retailers, he said it was important to limit big out-of-town stores to ensure the city centre could flourish.

“You’ve got to limit supermarkets building big out-of-town developments that suck business from the high street,” he said.

“Shoppers go looking for different kinds of experiences. More and more people are wanting to go to their local butchers or bakery.

“What you want in a good town centre is diversity, both big shops and the independents. And what you want most of all is to have people with money in their pockets. In the last few years people’s living standards have been really squeezed.”

Mr Matheson echoed Mr Balls’s comments, saying wages in Chester had fallen by an average of £2,000 since 2010.

“It’s about getting money in people’s pockets,” he said.

A Labour government would increase the minimum wage, boost child benefits and impose higher taxes on the richest in society, Mr Balls said.

“We’ve got to get to a world where people’s wages go up faster than their bills,” he said.

Labour’s Better Plan for Small Businesses includes action to tackle late payment, reducing unnecessary regulation and establishing a British Investment Bank to boost lending to small firms.

The party has pledged to lower the tax burden on small businesses with a cut in business rates – worth an average of £400.