THE Labour party in St Helens has paid tribute to two veteran councillors who died within days of each other over the festive period.

Labour councillors Ken Pinder and Mike Doyle both suffered suspected heart attacks.

Cllr Pinder, aged 60, was found dead in Fleet Lane, Parr, last Saturday.

The father-of-three, who had represented the Parr ward for 12 years, collapsed while out walking.

Just two days later former Mayor of St Helens and council leader Mike Doyle, aged 69 was taken ill at his Rainhill home. He died in Whiston Hospital on Tuesday.

As tributes were paid to both men, St Helens Labour Group leader Marie Rimmer expressed immense sadness at the double tragedy and said the past week had been the “most traumatic” she had experienced in a 30-year political career.

Cllr Rimmer, 60, said: “We know them as comrades and as councillors but we are like one big family.

"When you are working together and campaigning for people you become closer, and they were both great councillors. We are so upset.”

She revealed how in a telephone call her close friend and political ally Cllr Doyle had broken the news to her about Cllr Pinder’s death.

But just days later, she learned that Cllr Doyle, who continued his political career despite an illness that resulted in him having a leg amputated seven years ago, had also died suddenly.

Cllr Rimmer said the two Labour stalwarts were both “entrenched in their communities”.

She added: “Mike and I were both elected as councillors on the same day 30 years ago. It took him ten years to get elected and when he did it came after three recounts.

“He was a man who was very intelligent, well-read and well-spoken, but he was also a joker.

“When illness resulted him losing his leg, I recall going into hospital where I told him I wanted him to take responsibility for environmental services.

"Later that evening his wife Julia phoned me and said he would accept the position but he would need my support.

“Within a week he had a laptop in the hospital and was holding meetings around his bed. He didn’t need my help.

“Mike was campaigning up to the day he died and was a member of 27 voluntary organisations in Rainhill.

"He was a great man who loved life, and politically he played a huge role in the regeneration of St Helens.”

She paid tribute to Cllr Pinder, adding: “Ken was in everything in Parr, he was a very, very popular man. Everybody loved him, particularly young people who he was very passionate about helping.

“He was a volunteer with the youth offending team and wanted to try and give young people something positive in life. He was a lovely man.”

There will be civic funerals for both men.

Ken Pinder’s funeral will take place on Tuesday (January 6), at 10am in the St Vincents Church, on Derbyshire Hill Road, Parr.

Mike Doyle’s funeral will be held on Monday, January 19 at St Bartholomews Church, Warrington Road, Rainhill at noon.