Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband has unveiled people power agenda Reuters

Labour leader Ed Miliband has revealed plans for "people-powered public services" to give ordinary citizens a direct influence in what happens in schools, hospitals and other services.

He has promised that a Labour government would allow parents to call in a new "improvement team" to boost performance of schools and teachers if they are falling short, offer greater rights to access health and school records, and hand councils three or five-year budgets to provide greater certainty.

He said the aim was to create a new culture in the public services and insisted he was as ready to tackle bureaucracy and power in those bodies as he was in taking on big private firms like the energy industry.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, he said: "I meet as many people coming to me frustrated by the unresponsive state as the untamed market. And the causes of the frustrations are often the same in the private and public sector: unaccountable power with the individual left powerless to act."

Miliband is sensitive to the attack that he is pro-big state and wants to tackle that image head-on by suggesting he is ready to spread accountability and public engagement to the big state-run institutions.

The Labour leader is also eager to keep some political momentum after having set the agenda for months with his attacks on big business and focus on the cost of living crisis.

But with those attacks losing some of their power, he needs to move the agenda on and believes this will widen his appeal and show his willingness to tackle vested interests is not limited to the private sector.

He is hampered in his attacks over the economy, partly because of the growing and apparently secure recovery, but also because he is not yet in a position to outline detail of his own tax and spend proposals.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has offered some key policies, specifically on the 50p top tax rate, but will not be pushed into revealing more until closer to the election.

There is much more detail to come on Miliband's new policy, which is based around the idea of devolving power away from the centre to ordinary citizens.

It is an idea that was driven to some extent by the last Labour government and which has some parallels with David Cameron's much-derided Big Society agenda.

But Miliband will hope that, unlike Cameron's Big Society idea, there will be enough concrete detail for voters to get a real idea of exactly what the initiatives will mean to them.

Critics, however, will undoubtedly claim there is an element of "we've heard it all before" and will need some convincing there are real, identifiable policies being offered by Miliband.