Councils fight back over plans for fewer authorities
The leader of the organisation representing councils in Wales has launched a scathing attack on plans to slash the number of local authorities.
Bob Wellington's comments come after Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews said he wanted to cut councils from 22 to eight or nine in Wales.
Mr Wellington warned there was "nothing more dangerous in a combat zone than a general with a map".
He was speaking at a conference of the Welsh Local Government Association.
Mr Wellington said a proposed map of local government had been drawn up by "Cathays Park civil servants" without proper consultation with local government.
He told the WLGA conference in Swansea that against a backdrop of council budget cuts, ministers could end up merging "empty shells".
"We have to say, in the current climate local government reorganisation seems to perfectly fit with the old military maxim that the most dangerous thing in a combat zone is a general with a map," he said.
"The debate on devolution exclusively appears to dwell on empowering Cardiff Bay while local services are sinking in a sea of austerity.
"We cannot carry on with this level of doubt and ambiguity, it's draining and demoralising for our employees."
Mr Andrews took to the stage after Mr Wellington.
After muted applause but no open hostility from delegates, he said there was a "grand prize" available to local government, suggesting extra powers could be devolved to councils.
Mr Andrews also said a "long debate" would now follow the publication of the Welsh government's proposed map.
In a detailed speech, the minister cited examples around the UK where councils have dealt well with cuts by reforming their organisations.
Mr Andrews said the Welsh government had protected councils more than the UK government had in England, but there were "deep cuts" to come.