Substantial library closures can be expected over the next two years as councils continue to struggle with their finances, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
A survey of council financial plans has shown that three in five local authorities will have exhausted other ways of saving money by 2015/16, meaning cuts to frontline services such as libraries will be the only way of reducing their costs.
The report from the LGA, titled "Under Pressure", said councils are approaching the "end of the road" when it comes to protecting public services from closure. It said that the most difficult decisions are likely to come in the financial year beginning April 2015, though many will have to act sooner. Only one in five of the councils responding to the survey believed savings could be covered by efficiency savings.
"Money available to provide popular services like... libraries and youth centres is likely to shrink by 66% by the end of the decade," the report found.
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat vice-chairman of the LGA, said councils were reaching a "tipping point". He said: "With another £20bn worth of savings to be found, we're approaching a tipping point where options are fast running out. The next two years will be the toughest yet for those who use and rely upon the popular local services councils provide."
The warning comes ahead of this month's local elections, where several districts and boroughs are choosing councillors.
The LGA's findings echo the findings of The Bookseller earlier in the year, which found campaigners warning of a "state of emergency" in the library service. Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign, said: "We could reach a tipping point before the end of the year where we have lost a level of service that we will never be able to get back."