Ed Miliband has targeted the government’s health reforms as he launched Labour’s local elections campaign, with the promise to govern for the whole country, “not just for the wealthy few”.

The Labour leader arrived at the Hub Hazelwell community centre in Kings Heath alongside shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, to address a packed hall.

As the party faces a crucial test in the polls on 3 May - with elections in England, Scotland and Wales - Mr Miliband will seek to lift the spirits of activists following their shock defeat in the Bradford West by-election at the hands of George Galloway.

He said: “I think that Labour councils are now the last line of defence against this bill and they have got to use the public health and well-being boards as a way of trying to prevent the worst aspects of this bill. Of course, comply with legislation because the legislation has passed. But I think there is an opportunity for Labour councils to stand up for the right principles not the wrong principles in our NHS.

“We will repeal the free market, free-for-all principles in this bill. That is an absolute commitment. It is incredibly damaging to the whole ethos of our NHS. Frankly, doctors and nurses and people right across this country know that.”

A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times gave Labour a nine-point lead over the Conservatives. However, the Bradford result - where Mr Galloway won by 10,000 votes, overturning a 5,000 majority - threw a question mark over the strength of support for the party.

Mr Miliband will place the issues of living standards, crime, the NHS and jobs at the centre of the campaign while attacking the “out-of-touch” Tories.

Mr Miliband said: “I think this government has abandoned the pretence that they can govern for the whole country. They have betrayed middle Britain. They are spending their time listening to their donors, the people who give millions of pounds to the Conservative Party, cutting taxes for millionaires, not the millions of people of this country. We are determined to govern for the whole country, not just the wealthy few.”