Oxford city councillor Beryl Keen is preparing to retire after 20 years representing the Cowley and Iffley areas.

The Labour Party stalwart will step down from office when the local elections take place on Thursday, May 4.

Despite her retirement from the authority, the 71-year-old grandmother said she planned to continue playing an active role in the community.

Mrs Keen, pictured, is best known for her work on environmental issues, campaigning on behalf of pensioners and working closely with residents on issues such as housing. She is a member of the council's environment scrutiny committee.

She has helped raise thousands of pounds for several Oxford charities, including the city's branch of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council, and organises community events, such as an annual fish and chip supper in Rose Hill for elderly people.

Mrs Keen became a councillor for the Iffley ward in 1986. A boundary change meant she later moved to represent Cowley, alongside her husband and fellow Labour councillor Bryan, who will be up for re-election in 2008.

She was appointed Lord Mayor of Oxford in May 1996 and more recently was Lady Mayoress when Mr Keen served as Lord Mayor in 2004-5.

The couple, of Liddell Road, Cowley, have worked side-by-side for many years on council business and charity work.

Mrs Keen said it was a desire to help people in need that spurred her to become a councillor.

She said: "I will be sad to go, but I know the time is right and I'm glad to say I've helped with lots of different things.

"I've always been more involved with working with the community than at the front of council business, and it's the helping people part of the role that I've enjoyed most.

"We've had a lot of people over the years coming to us for advice and help, and I've always said to them 'I'll try my best'.

"You can never say you will be able to help, because sometimes things are out of your control, but I like to think I've made a difference."

Mrs Keen is a former chairman of Oxford Pensioners' Forum and said she would continue to be a member.

Half of the council's 48 seats are being contested at the elections in May.

Although nominations do not have to be submitted until Monday (April 3) and only one candidate has been officially put forward for the Cowley ward, among those expected to run are: Pippa Whittaker, for the Respect Party, Mumtaz Fareed, of Marston, who is standing for Labour, and Martin Juckes, of Cowley, who is set to be the Green Party candidate.