A COUNCILLOR who made "unacceptable" offensive remarks during a private meeting has resigned as leader of the St Helens Green Party group.

The Star previously reported that Cllr David O'Keefe had resigned from a newly-established Climate Change Commission after complaints over remarks he was heard making during its inaugural virtual gathering last week.

Representatives from a wide range of organisations – including United Utilities, the Environment Agency, St Helens Chamber, and the Mersey Forest – joined the meeting along with councillors and officers.

Complaints were subsequently made about the conduct of Cllr O'Keefe, who represents the Bold ward, after comments were overheard on the meeting's audio feed.

Political opposition groups had nominated Cllr O’Keefe to take part in the commission.

Labour councillors said he had resigned after making an "obscene" remark while not "realising his microphone was on" at the first meeting.

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A St Helens Green Party spokesman said Cllr O'Keefe has also stepped down as the group's leader.

He said: "Cllr O'Keefe's comments were completely inappropriate and totally unacceptable.

"We offer our sincere apologies to all Climate Change Commission members and an internal investigation will take place.

"Cllr O'Keefe has apologised profusely and offered his resignation from the commission. He has also stepped down as our group leader.

"The investigation will consider his conduct together with any mitigating circumstances.

"David is known to have been taking powerful analgesics for a painful back problem, and we are assured that his comments were a general expression of his discomfort and frustration, and not directed towards anyone.

"As a party we are very willing to continue working with the commission on this critical issue."

A St Helens Borough Council spokesperson said: "We received complaints about the conduct of Cllr O'Keefe in a meeting of the Climate Change Commission which was not held in public.

"Cllr O'Keefe has offered an apology for his conduct and resigned from the commission."

In a statement, Labour's Cllr Andy Bowden, St Helens Council's cabinet member for environment and transport, who sits on the commission, said: “The comments made by Cllr O’Keefe are entirely unacceptable and it’s right that he has resigned his place.

"The expert and independent professionals who have agreed to give their time to this vital project deserve our thanks and respect.

"A place remains open for opposition groups, and they will be invited to put forward a replacement for Cllr O’Keefe.”

The commission will aim to be an independent voice and provide authoritative and expert advice on key steps towards achieving targets to tackle climate change.