Copeland's mayor has hit back at claims made by the leader of Allerdale Council after he accused Sellafield Ltd of favouring Whitehaven.

Mike Starkie was "staggered" by Alan Smith's fierce criticisms of the nuclear plant, after the council leader claimed its socio-economic policy "is giving sweeties" to Whitehaven but "its impact stops at Distington".

In his retort, Mr Starkie said Allerdale receives a "significant and surely welcome" £500,000 in funding.

He also hit out at the council over its part in a failed Cumbria devolution deal, which Mr Starkie backed but Allerdale rejected, saying it "stood in the way" of a "more progressive" form of local government.

Mr Smith blasted the nuclear company after the publication of its Social Impact Strategy, a 14-page report based on a study by Oxford Economics from June 2017.

The council leader said there was "abject poverty" on Sellafield's doorstep, in places like Egremont, Cleator Moor and Workington's Moss Bay.

"They are giving the sweeties to the town of Whitehaven but not everyone can get a look in," he said. "Sellafield is right. It does have a massive impact on the area, but in Sellafield's eyes, its impact stops at Distington."

He said £500,000 of investment was welcome but didn't address key challenges, adding 25 per cent of Sellafield's wage bill comes into Allerdale. "We want to work with Sellafield, the NDA and other partners, but the nuclear industry has to meet us halfway."

The Oxford Economics report says Allerdale residents are paid around £122 million per annum by Sellafield Ltd.

Mr Starkie was "staggered" by Mr Smith's comments, adding "local authorities need to build positive, constructive relationships on behalf of our communities".

"It is an absolute fact that while the benefits are shared all over Cumbria, the complexities, and challenges of working with Sellafield on a daily basis are responsibilities for Copeland alone."

He said Allerdale had "remarkable economic benefit from the nuclear industry", citing the National Nuclear College, the UTC, Energus and the Port of Workington.

"I am delighted, despite the fact Sellafield is based in Copeland, the whole of West Cumbria and indeed the rest of Cumbria benefits from the nuclear industry."

Mr Starkie said Copeland Council works closely with Sellafield and welcomes nuclear industry support, but added a recent rates review, prompted by the NDA, resulted in a £24m rebate that forced "us into a very challenging fiscal position".

The elected mayor suggested Allerdale could develop a socio-economic strategy with employers in its area and encouraged councils to take "more responsibility for our own destinies".

He said "the devolution deal would have brought significant funding" but was "stopped in its tracks by political dogma from a prehistoric bygone age".

"Allerdale was one of the councils that stood in the way of us all having the chance to obtain more funding and self-determination, which would lead to a more progressive, modern, dynamic and democratic form of local government."

In response to Mr Smith, a Sellafield spokesman said the company has invested millions in Copeland and Allerdale over recent years.

"We commissioned the Oxford Economic report so that we could identify the issues faced in West Cumbria and work with local stakeholders to help address them.

"Sellafield Ltd cannot meet the challenges facing the local economy alone. These can only be addressed by business, local and national leaders, trade unions and local authorities working together in partnership."