The government plans to radically slash red tape in an end to top-down targets.
Andy Burnham, chief secretary to the Treasury, said the government was ready to move away from the era of micro management and give local services more control to set their own priorities in response to local needs.
In an interview with the Guardian Mr Burhnam said some key targets would remain but around 110 Whitehall targets would be abandoned.
Instead progress will be monitored with softer indicators of national and local performance. Priorities will be set by councils, primary care trusts and service chiefs in response to local needs.
He said: "This is the opening of a new chapter.If we get this right, the style of government will feel different. We want to give out a message of more trust in public bodies."
Mr Burnham told the newspaper: "We will avoid wherever possible the more crude approach of setting a one-size-fits-all target that is dropped down from on high.
"The direction of travel is for public services to look and feel differently in different parts of the country. We want them to face downwards and outwards, having a dialogue with their local communities rather than with the centre."
He denied this marked a U-turn by the government and instead insisted it was a natural evolution in its approach to public services.
Targets were appropriate ten years ago when the government was restoring public services after decades of under-investment, he said.
Mr Burnham continued: "I'd defend to the hilt that they were right for their time. But, over time, they implied a lack of trust.
"The problem with lots of targets is that they encouraged people to look upwards to Whitehall and tick the boxes provided for them.
"Instead, we want people to look outwards and downwards."
Top-down targets were introduced in 1998 when the then chancellor Gordon Brown announced moves to boost public service investment.
Whitehall has set targets for everything from GCSE pass rates to teenage pregnancies. They have been often bitterly opposed by doctors, teachers and public servants.