The ideas, floated in an article in the latest edition of Labour-affiliated magazine Renewal, combine the rhetoric of decentralisation with an insistence on the importance of national targets.
The article forms part of the commitment the chancellor made in the last budget to look at ?devolving decision-making from the centre? in the run up to the spending review.
Mr Brown pledged to consider ?how best to achieve decentralised delivery and responsive local and regional services in a way that is consistent with equity and efficiency?.
He said: ?One way forward is that local communities should have the freedom to agree for each service their own local performance standards.?
Residents could be given the power to continuously monitor performance, based on methods pioneered in New York, he added.
Mr Brown stressed community empowerment implies further decentralisation to councils and other service providers, for instance through light-touch inspections and less ring-fencing.
But he added: ?Local autonomy without national standards may lead to increased inequality between people and regions and the return of postcode lotteries.?
The Local Government Association denied reports it opposes the notion of residents setting standards: ?We are already engaged in extremely constructive discussions with the Treasury.
?A key part of our proposal involves cascading local public service agreement priorities to other organisations at local level, including local groups,? a spokesman said.
A Treasury spokesman said officials would visit New York in the next few months to find out more about mechanisms for giving residents powers to set targets.