Almost 45,000 town hall jobs are to be cut across the country as councils brace themselves for a savage government squeeze on their budgets.
Analysis by The Independent has identified tens of thousands of local authority posts that will be scrapped – with jobs working with the elderly and with unemployed young people particularly at risk.
Councils across the country are drawing up plans to trim their spending by between 25 and 30 per cent over the next four years, reductions that will lead to a huge number of redundancies among the two million local government workers.
In the past week alone, 1,500 redundancies have been announced at Somerset County Council and 200 at Bedford Borough Council, while unions have warned that 1,000 posts are about to be axed by Bristol City Council.
The leader of Oxfordshire County Council yesterday warned that it could have to shed 1,000 jobs.
The Independent has identified 50 councils, from the south coast of England to the north-east of Scotland, where more than 40,000 jobs are being cut. A further 3,500 posts in Connexions, a service run by local authorities to give careers advice to teenagers, are about to be scrapped.
With many of the country's 400 local authorities only beginning to draw up budget plans, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs could eventually be lost in councils. Some losses will be achieved through voluntary redundancies and retirement, but widespread sackings are certain.
Redundancies on that scale will provoke industrial unrest and leaders of the public-sector unions are to pledge at next week's TUC conference to fight the job losses.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has urged local councils not to be panicked into indiscriminate cuts and to reshape services to be more efficient and easier to use. But the size of the budget cuts councils expect to make means that heavy job losses are inevitable. The 32 London boroughs, for example, are drawing up plans to slash spending by £5bn a year.
Major cities will be heavily hit, with at least 2,000 posts due to be cut in Birmingham and 2,800 in Glasgow. Unions estimate that Sheffield City Council's plans to cut spending by £220m will lead to more than 1,000 job losses, and claim that 2,000 could also go in Barnsley.
The English shire counties will also bear a heavy burden, with 3,000 posts due to be cut in Nottinghamshire, which has warned it faces the "unprecedented financial challenge" of cutting £150m from spending. Another 3,000 jobs look vulnerable in Essex, 2,000 in Cornwall, 1,000 in Lincolnshire and 700 in Kent.
Northumberland is set to axe 1,000 jobs in addition to the 1,300 it has scrapped over the last two years.
The pain is also being felt in smaller authorities. Bath and North East Somerset Council has said it expects "300 or more" job losses, while Fareham Borough Council has announced plans to cut 42 posts.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said: "It is deeply worrying that serious staff shortages in social work and social care are set to get worse and cutting so-called 'back office' jobs has a devastating effect on frontline services."
Meanwhile Hampshire Police announced moves to cut 1,400 posts, including hundreds of officers, in an effort to find savings of £70m over four years. The Police Federation warned that 40,000 posts could be lost in England and Wales if the Home Office is forced to cut its budget by 25 per cent in next month's spending review. Ministers are also poised to make the first decisions on potential military cuts next week as part of a wider Strategic Defence and Security Review.