Martin Pilgrim, under-secretary of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, said: 'Local authorities are getting very near to the bone in improving efficiency. This is the first time we have faced cash cuts - so by definition this is the worst we have ever faced.'
The AMA estimates that some 30 authorities will have to make significant budget reductions, involving hundreds of millions pounds. Schools, swimming pools and nurseries are all on the hit list, says the paper.
Sunderland City Council said it may have to shed 1,107 of its 14,474 jobs and has already sent formal 90-day notices of possible job cuts to unions and asked all departments for redundancy volunteers.
Labour's local government spokesman, Doug Henderson, said jobs losses and cuts in real pay would leave workers demoralised. 'With a demoralised police force, people will be at risk on the streets. With a demoralised fire service, people will be at risk in their homes.'
Local government union, Unison, said: 'The onslaught on local government spending is a catastrophe that would create civic chaos. Cash-squeezed councils will have to unleash colossal cuts which will rebound throughout the economy as employment falls and life-sustaining support services are slashed.'