A BRUISING political row has ended with county councillors agreeing that the county needs to fight for Moorside in West Cumbria – rather than with each other.

Responsibility for the failure of the new £15 billion nuclear power plant project led to claim and counter claim at a stormy meeting of the full council in Kendal on Thursday.

On several occasions, council chairwoman Liz Mallinson was forced to intervene as councillors heckled and interrupted each other at the first meeting of all 80 county councillors since the news broke.

The authority’s legal and democratic services manager, Iolanda Puzio, also had to leave her place at the top table to speak with back bench councillors about their behaviour and remarks.

Various allegations were made during the meeting with calls for certain councillors to leave the room, demands for apologies, accusations of “defamation” and threats of “civil action”.

Eventually, after a short adjournment and a reminder of the council’s code of conduct, order was restored.

In a mass show of hands, the council chamber agreed that Cumbria needed to fight for nuclear power, not each other.

The ugly debate followed an urgent notice of motion tabled by cabinet member for economic development, David Southward (Lab, Egremont).

It read: “Council calls on the Government to enter into urgent discussions with all interested parties and to take any necessary steps to ensure that the nuclear power plant construction project at Moorside goes ahead. Council considers that due to the level of commercial risk involved in projects of this nature, they are highly unlikely to proceed without Government support, whether that be by way of equity acquisition, underwriting potential losses or guaranteeing the strike price.”

Cllr Southward said: “I have been involved in these discussions for six years and right from the start it was clear this project needed meaningful financial support from the Government and without Government support it would be very challenging.”

Cllr Rebecca Hanson (Lib Dem, Cockermouth North) warned it could lead to “substantial social deprivation” and there had been a lack of “civil service oversight” because attention was focussed on Brexit.

Lord Liddle (Lab, Wigton) said people needed to see a “united Cumbria fighting for the Moorside project” and said all political parties had a share of the blame. “If we are serious about trying to rebalance our economy, we have to get big projects like this in the north of England and fight for it very hard as a county and county council,” he said.

Frank Morgan (Lab, Cleator Moor East) said the impact would be felt by the Cumbria LEP which was consulting on an industrial strategy which was “virtually dependent” on the investment. “It’s not only a blight on West Cumbria but a failure for Cumbria. The impact will have serious ramifications for the whole of the county.”

Cllr James Airey (Con, Ulverston East) said: “We do need to bury politics on this one and there are faults on all sides. I think the six members of parliament for Cumbria will be working as hard as they possibly can to ensure Moorside and the nuclear industry in Cumbria have a safe and secure future. That’s what we all want.”

Chris Whiteside (Con, Egremont North and St Bees) said: “Our MPs are working very hard to deliver this and it doesn’t help by distracting ourselves with personal attacks.”

Cllr Peter Thornton (Lib Dem, Kendal Strickland) said: “If the state is not responsible for keeping the lights on, then what is the role of Government? This power station was going to be seven per cent of the nation’s energy. We have got a problem with energy and a Government who is not tackling it or planning ahead.”