The mayor of Copeland has urged public officials at all levels to keep the wavering Moorside project alive and not use it as an opportunity for “political point scoring”.

Mike Starkie – the county’s first apolitical elected mayor – made the plea as fears mount over the future of the £15 billion nuclear power station after the developer behind it, NuGen, announced it was its number of staff by more than two-thirds in response to delays to find a new investor.

Mr Starkie blamed the Government for creating uncertainty over the future of the project – which is planned for land adjacent to Sellafield – and said it was putting at risk the “goodwill” shown by the Copeland community for the nuclear industry.

His attack comes after NuGen said it was reducing its workforce from 100 to 32 as it refocuses its efforts on helping current owner Toshiba to find a buyer.

Talks between Toshiba and Kepco have stalled, with sources in Korea saying a new profit for the project put forward by the UK Government, has forced both parties, along with Kepco majority owner the Korean Government, to renegotiate the deal.

Mr Starkie said: "It is hugely frustrating that we continue to be hampered by delays and uncertainty, and that in this instance, that uncertainty has been created by the UK Government.

"I call upon the Government to support Moorside and give the confidence investors need to work with us.”

Mr Starkie said he was “confident that a solution will be found” to progress the project, but warned: “This is not a time for party political point scoring, it is a time for all in public office at all levels to work together in the best interests of our economy and community."

He also warned the Government should not take Copeland for granted at a time it was “working hard with Sellafield and other partners to reconfigure the local economy” in light of reprocessing ending at the site in 2020.

“The Government also needs to fully comprehend that the Copeland community is an incredibly valuable asset and it simply cannot afford that goodwill to depreciate,” he said.

"Copeland is at the centre of nuclear excellence and there are huge advantages to developing in an area that already has unparalleled capability in nuclear, and the ability to extract the value of existing investment makes this an attractive opportunity and a national asset.

“For decades our people have stood full square behind numerous governments in full support of their nuclear ambitions and we expect that support to be reciprocated. The Copeland community should not be taken for granted.”

His comments come in stark contrast to those from Labour Workington MP Sue Hayman who said: “This Tory government could not care less about the Cumbrian economy, the Moorside project, or the 20,000 future jobs it will bring.”

"As usual, it's one story for Cumbria and another story for everyone else.

"The Government has done a deal with China over Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Bradwell nuclear power stations, and it has promised to consider state funding for Wylfa to give investors the confidence to go ahead.

"The Conservatives are selling out the people of West Cumbria while doing deals with China, and they should be ashamed."

Meanwhile, the national secretary of the GMB union, Justin Bowden, called on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to be re-tasked and renamed as the Nuclear Development Authority to support the project, adding: “The looming collapse of this vital energy project has been depressingly predictable for months.”