THE FIGHT for the region’s new top police job came to Oxford last night.

All six candidates chasing the £85,000-a-year Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner job debated at the hustings at Oxford Town Hall.

Each candidate made a short speech before the panel took questions from the 150-strong audience. Discussion ran from police cuts to detection rates and privatisation of the force. The vote for the new job will take place next Thursday.

Oxford magistrate John Howson said, after suffering a burglary in March this year, he understood what it was like to be a victim.

He said: “For the first time we do have some form of accountability for the police.

“If elected, I will put improving detection rates on the top of my agenda. If I don’t achieve that I will have failed.”

Tory Anthony Stansfeld, a current police authority member, said: “I believe to actually do this job you have to actually understand the police. I know the police.”

UKIP’s Barry Cooper said foreign aid should be cut before police budgets were reduced, adding: “Cuts to the police are morally and ethically indefensible.

“All the meat has been trimmed and anything more will start cutting into muscle.”

Independents Patience Awe, from Reading, and Geoff Howard, from Slough, said voters should steer clear of the political candidates as the role was to be impartial.

When asked about the region’s “frightening” detection rate by a member of the audience, Ms Awe said: “It sets us a challenge to do a better job.”

Labour’s Tim Starkey said: “Low morale is crushing the police. I am proud to be Labour, but the ideas I bring to this debate are my own.

“I would ask you not to focus on labels, but who is best for the job.” Audience member Lesley Kumiega, from Headington, said after the meeting: “Many of the people standing are slightly more impressive than they would appear, or one would read.

“I need to think more deeply about it. It would be better to have a panel than an individual.”

The debate was chaired by Prof Ian Loader, director of the Criminology Centre at the University of Oxford.

It was organised by Tim Sadler, chairman of the Oxford Safer Communities Partnership.