An opposition councillor has been accused of resorting to name-calling and political stunts.

Speaking at a meeting of  Cumbria County Council,  the local leader of the Conservatives James Airey likened council leader Stewart Young to fictional children's character Captain Pugwash, and compared the Liberal Democrats to “poodles trotting behind their Labour masters”.

Mr Airey took aim repeatedly at the Labour-Lib Dem coalition, branding the members at the top table “stale” and “clueless” in a simile-rich attack which sparked a mixture of anger and laughter.

His comments prompted bench-thumping and cheering from the Conservatives, buoyed by their party’s recent General Election success, but several opposition councillors appeared less than impressed.

Highlighting the investment he said the Government would bring to Cumbria, Mr Airey said: “You might think the cabinet opposite would have a spring in their step but no, nothing has changed – closed minds and ideas, as stale as last week’s bread, with those Lib Dem poodles trotting behind their Labour masters without even a whimper.

“Captain Pugwash continues to steer his rudderless ship around in circles. This year’s budget kicks the can onwards into the long grass. The public have come here again being used as a soft target for yet another inflation-busting council tax increase.

“The administration has used extra government funding to plug holes in the sinking HMS Clueless rather than investing to save.”

But given his comments, Labour and Lib Dem councillors questioned the sincerity of his wish for cross-party cooperation or to get his party’s budget amendment passed – and the Conservative proposals were, indeed, later defeated.

Janet Willis, Liberal Democrat cabinet member said: “Ironically he went on to talk about working together after calling his Lib Dem colleagues poodles and not for the first time.”

Lakes Lib Dem Will Clark criticised c Airey for “name-calling”, while cabinet member Patricia Anne Bell called his party’s budget amendment a political “stunt”.

However, Lib Dem leader Peter Thornton appeared to take the cut and thrust of political banter in good part, reminding Mr Airey that the poodle was a “European working dog which can be savage when provoked”.

The Tories criticised the cabinet’s proposals to create a £22m Brexit slush fund, but council leader Stewart Young told the meeting the cabinet was “being responsible” by making provision for a projected one per cent increase in costs as a result of Brexit.