The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police was at loggerheads with Gordon Brown over Government targets for getting officers out on to the streets.

A row broke out after the Prime Minister slammed forces, such as West Midlands Police, which failed to ensure neighbourhood police teams should spend 80 per cent of their time on the beat.

Chris Sims hit back with a strongly-worded attack on Government attempts to make the police and other public services meet targets.

And he said: “It would be far easier for me to fudge these figures, but the public is already fed up with public bodies spending their taxes on people who are employed to manipulate numbers.”

Mr Brown attacked forces which failed to meet targets in a major speech on law and order, as opinion polls showed his party may be catching up with David Cameron’s Conservatives.

He highlighted a commitment in the Government’s “policing pledge” to ensure neighbourhood police teams should spend 80 per cent of their time on the beat.

A report published last October by official inspectors found the West Midlands force was failing to meet this target, and gave it a rating of “poor”.

Mr Brown said: “A fundamental part of the policing pledge is that neighbourhood police teams should spend 80 per cent of their time on the beat. This is a promise that every force has made to every community across the country.

“The recent report from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary found that, while most forces were working to achieve the 80 per cent commitment, some forces claimed ‘it would be too much bureaucracy’ to measure it, and some supervisors ‘had little idea’ of whether their teams were doing it.

“Let me be absolutely clear - that is not acceptable.”

But Mr Sims insisted the 80 per cent figure was meaningless. He insisted he backed Gordon Brown’s plans for neighbourhood policing, but attacked the figures quoted by the Prime Minister.

He said: “Ultimately I have just one target - to provide the public in the West Midlands with the service they tell us they want.

“I believe we have proportionately more officers working on neighbourhood teams than any other force in the country, and an ongoing change programme is committed to increasing that percentage still further.

“I took the decision to deploy a larger number of officers in this way knowing we would on occasion have to take them out of their roles to cover other major events, but secure in the knowledge that most of the time they would be working in their dedicated local neighbourhoods.

“Perversely I could cut the number of officers on our neighbourhood teams and ensure those that remain are on the beat all the time to comfortably meet the 80 per cent target.

“That is not a step I am prepared to take and it is not what the people in our communities tell us they want.”

Mr Sims criticised HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, the body led by the Chief Inspector, which produced the report Mr Brown referred to.

He said: “I believe that on this matter we are right and HMIC is wrong, and they do not seem to have acknowledged our total commitment to improving public confidence.”