David Cameron used his visit to Birmingham on Monday to hold out the prospect of tax cuts and lower Government borrowing under the Conservatives.
The Tory leader stopped short of promising immediate reductions in tax if he gained power, but left no doubt that one of his priorities would be to reduce the burden on taxpayers over the longer term.
In an echo of Margaret Thatcher, he promised a return to "good Conservative principles of good housekeeping" to reduce waste in Government spending.
Speaking at The Studio, in Cannon Street, in the city centre, Mr Cameron said a Tory Government would be able to increase spending on essential services without raising taxes by tackling the social problems - such as family breakdown, unemployment and addiction - which cost the state most money, as well as reforming public services and cutting back on bureaucracy.
He said that the public were increasingly angry with Labour because they saw their taxes going up without any corresponding improvement in the quality of their lives.
He accused ministers of being "shockingly casual about public money and how it's spent" and said that billions were being wasted because of a "spendaholic culture" in Government.
He accused Mr Brown of a "superficial" politics which promised great things but failed to develop the policies to deliver them.
"There's a real sense of unfairness that people are feeling today," Mr Cameron said. "They feel that Labour have broken the basic bargain between Government and the people, the bargain that says: 'We'll take money off you in taxes, and you'll get decent quality services in return'.
"After a decade of reckless spending under Labour, Britain needs good housekeeping from the Conservatives. We need to start living within our means. Why? Because in the decades ahead there will be pressure to spend more on the essentials - whether that's care for the older generation, equipment for our armed forces, or more prisons and police to keep us safe.
"At the same time, we have reached the limits of acceptable taxation and borrowing. With the rising cost of living, taxpayers can't take any more pain. Indeed, they want a Government that can give them the prospect of relief. And our economy can't take any more pain without losing jobs to lower tax competitors."
By "sharing the proceeds of growth" - restricting increases in public spending below the rate of growth in GDP - a Conservative Government would automatically create the space for tax cuts and reduced borrowing, said Mr Cameron.
But he promised this would not be done by recklessly slashing spending on essential services, pledging: "We will give public services the proper funding they need so that everyone in the country can have access to the services they need."
Instead, the Tories would cut spending by a programme of school reform, welfare reform and action to strengthen families, which would reduce the burden of social expenditure on Government.
Public services would be reformed and bureaucracy reduced in order to keep costs down - including by a new requirement on Government to publish any spending over £25,000 online, and a new whistleblower service to allow people working in the public sector to raise the alarm about waste.
Mr Cameron made clear that a key principle of a Tory Government would be "long-term tax reduction", which he said was "both morally right and economically efficient".
But he added: "We will never trick people into voting for us with promises of tax cuts that cannot responsibly be delivered, or that cannot be sustained. We are the party of low taxes for the long term, not tax cut promises for the short term."
Mr Cameron warned that Britain was "on the wrong path" after 11 years of Labour Government.
"They have splashed the cash like there's no tomorrow - but the trouble is, there is a tomorrow, and it's got to be paid for," he said. "Unless we make big changes, we're heading for a future as a high-tax, uncompetitive backwater with soaring social costs and a falling quality of life. To avoid that future, while fulfilling the essential requirements of modern government, we will need to put into action those good Conservative principles of good housekeeping.
"And then we can look forward to a very different future: a low tax, competitive economy, with a high quality of life and the opportunity for everyone to make something of their life."