Some authorities are estimating a drop in their budgets within three years of up to 15%, a figure that will inevitably have an impact on frontline services.

The country’s largest authority, Glasgow, is due to begin a major review of its workforce which could see thousands of staff leave through either early retirement or redundancy over the next three to five years, despite reducing the gap in its finances for the coming year from £100m to £66m.

A council source said: “There’s no doubt that if you were to return to Glasgow City Council in five years’ time there will be thousands fewer staff.”

East Renfrewshire, which has said it is assuming a reduction in government funding of between 12% and 15% in the next three years, has identified £9.2m worth of financial pressures for 2010/11 due, in part, to rising demand for services such as schools and elderly care, adding that “councillors will have some hard decisions to make”.

In East Dunbartonshire they are looking at an £18m deficit over the next three years, while North Ayrshire has a deficit of £30m over the same period.

Both the Lanarkshires have already signalled how they attempt to balance the books, including paying for services such as parking, axe ing 150 managerial posts, creating leisure trusts, closing older facilities and even looking at the capacity of school estates.

West Lothian Council is already in the process of putting many of its public services under one roof in the new West Lothian Civic Centre, a building which will include the police and health bodies to “create a public sector for the future, which is efficient and delivers at a lower cost”.

Fife said it expects its government grants to shrink by as much as 12% between 2010 and 2014, with the council streamlining management teams, saving £500,000 by restructuring social work, and “making better use of public buildings” to save up to £6m over the next five years.

Stirling has already reduced its management teams and got rid of all directors, while East Lothian predicts that the cut in its income could be as much as £4.6m this year.

Neighbouring Midlothian Council reckons there will be a £2.5m reduction in grant from central government for 2010/11, rising by a further £3.75m in 2013, and further budget pressures of £1m.

Derek Milligan, leader of Midlothian Council, said: “It will be a huge challenge to maintain essential frontline services in a deteriorating financial climate, where council income is going down but the costs of providing these services are going up.”

Argyll and Bute Council said “all areas of the council’s budget will be scrutinised”, while Moray has instructed headteachers to spend cash only on what is essential.

Aberdeenshire estimates a reduction in grant of £7.5m, together with ongoing budget pressures of £2.5m, while Borders Council said it will “have at least £3.8m less for the new financial year that we previously expected to have”.

Many of the council’s within the Clyde valley have said they are expecting the review by Sir John Arbuthnott into sharing services to help deliver savings, while others are understood to have lost faith in it delivering anything of significance.

Professor Richard Kerley, of Queen Margaret University College and Centre for Scottish Public Policy, believes that a 15% cut to budgets within the coming years is a realistic figure and that while core services, education and social work, are statutorily protected there is scope within them for cuts to be made.

He said: “You look at what’s happening in Glasgow, with the council deciding it needs fewer schools and therefore fewer teachers and fewer buildings with their associated costs. There’s nothing here which is protected and to say they have statutory protection is a misunderstanding.”

Mike Kirby, Unison’s Scottish convenor, said the impact on local government as a result of the economic collapse was worse than at any time in the 35 years he had been involved in it.

He added: “The pressures on public-sector finance arose from the banks and the cost should not be borne by the public services and, least of all, by low-paid workers. In times of economic difficulties the public sector can act as an economic lever for building out of a recession.”