The party leader came to Manchester last night with a message that even in opposition his party could help ordinary people.
But within hours he faced accusations from members of the public that his party was involved in cuts to services at local levels that were putting people's lives at risk.
It came as Miliband set out his belief that Labour can help those whose living standards are being squeezed.
Plans unveiled include a strict cap on pension company charges, following warnings that too many older people find they do not have the capital they expected to have when they retire.
The Labour leader also announced that he would abolish the energy regulator Ofgem and replace it with a new body "with teeth".
The party wants the new organisation to have tough powers to force energy companies to pass on price cuts and clamp down on abuses.
But during a question-and-answer session at a secondary school in Manchester, Miliband was tackled over his party's role in service cuts.
The row comes just days after Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont suggested the party might make cuts if it regained power.
Yesterday, Miliband told members of the public he would not make spending pledges he could not keep.
But Vee Ball, from a local pressure group campaigning for mental health services, told him: "Mr Miliband, we don't want your money we want your compassion."
She called on him to press the Labour mayor of Salford, in Greater Manchester, to change course on a shake-up of mental health services that she warned could result in deaths.
Miliband said mental health issues were "far too often swept under the carpet" and agreed to meet with the group after the session to discuss the issue.
But he also faced criticism from another member of the audience for being too "woolly" over the details of parts of his policies.
Robust in the face of the criticism, the Labour leader said he wanted to hear the complaints ordinary people had about politicians.
He also told unions that they faced problems of "relevance" in the modern world, with too few younger members.
And he said he was "very open- minded" about the future possibilities for running the UK's railways.
He reiterated his backing for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, although the party does not believe it should be introduced on a one-off basis for the upcoming independence referendum.
Miliband also repeated hints that his party could go further than its existing commitment to cut the maximum annual university fee from £9000 to £6000.
And he suggested Labour would not repeal the controversial NHS Bill in England.
Although Labour is ahead in the polls, Miliband's personal ratings remain stubbornly poor.
The Conservatives responded to his comments by accusing Labour of making "hollow promises".
John Hayes, the Tory Energy Minister, said: "It's rich for Ed Miliband of all people to carp now about energy prices when on his watch as Labour's energy secretary energy firms' profits rocketed as consumer energy prices soared."
Among the ideas Labour will launch while in opposition are mass bargaining on energy bills, in an attempt to force down prices.
Contextual targeting label: