JIM Wilkie – Wirral Council's chief executive – departed from the authority last night after taking early voluntary retirement.

His departure was rubber-stamped at a short meeting of the council's employment and appointments committee.

Five hours later, just after midnight, an embargoed Audit Commission "public interest" report highlighting serious issues over a multi-million pound highways contract was released.

Mr Wilkie, 58, had been on sick leave since February. He was only appointed chief executive a year ago, having previously been deputy chief executive.

He was elevated to the top job after his predecessor Steve Maddox himself took early voluntary retirement shortly before independent consultant Anna Klonowski began her inquiries into the abuse of vulnerable adults, an first issue highlighted by the Globe in November 2008 after we were approached by adult social services whistleblower Martin Morton.

The council will pay more than £95,000 into Mr Wilkie's pension fund.

It is not yet clear if he will also receive three months' worth of his £132,000 salary in lieu of notice.

At the employment and appointments committee, the three Conservative group members opposed signing-off his early retirement.

They were defeated by the five Labour members and one Liberal Democrat, who approved Mr Wilkie’s early retirement.

His departure from the authority was active immediately.

Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said Mr Wilkie still had not offered an explanation as to why two senior adult social services workers were allowed to leave the authority less than 24 hours before the damning Klonowski report was published in January.