Peter Joslin, who was Warwickshire’s chief constable from 1983 to 1998, said he feared that changes to the system would leave people with “little experience” in charge.

He said if people who disagreed with the changes withheld their vote, the government would know the public did not agree with it.

All three candidates for the new post in Warwickshire—Conservative Fraser Pithie, Labour’s James Plaskitt and Independent Ron Ball—criticised Mr Joslin for his remarks.

Mr Pithie said it was “regrettable” that Mr Joslin had come out with such comments. Mr Ball said he was “disappointed” by what he described as “irresponsible” comments.

Mr Plaskitt — a former MP for Warwick and Leamington and junior government minister—said Mr Joslin’s comments were “disappointing” and added: “Nobody ever voted directly for the political representatives who sit on the police authority.

“At least here everyone has had a chance to vote and so there is somebody directly accountable.”

Voting in the police and crime commissioner elections takes place today (Thursday). Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.

The count will begin tomorrow (Friday) at the National Policing Improvement Agency at Ryton-on-Dunsmore at 11am, and the result is expected between 2pm and 5pm, depending on the turnout.

The elections are being held under the Supplementary Vote (SV) system, in which electors have the opportunity to state a first and second preference. If a candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote, they are elected.

If not, the two top candidates continue to the second round and the winner emerges after adding the second-choice to the first-choice votes.