He insisted there was an alternative if councils dipped into their reserves, people paid "a little more tax" and the government closed tax loopholes.
Mr Prentis said: "Care is already in crisis. Some councils want to halve the number of care homes, others will follow suit. We'll go from crisis to disaster. Our communities will suffer, vulnerable people will suffer."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Councils that use the recession as an excuse to make swingeing and self-defeating cuts to vital services... will face a backlash from the millions of people who use them every day.
"Focusing on growth to get the country back on track is just as important in local government as it is in Whitehall."
Communities Secretary John Denham told BBC Radio 5 live that councils that were cutting spending in the present financial year could not blame a reduction in government funding.
John Denham: "Councils should be able to protect and improve front-line services"
A Conservative government would bring in a one-year pay freeze across the public sector for everyone earning more than £18,000 a year, the shadow communities secretary, Caroline Spelman, told BBC Breakfast.
She estimated that the move could save 100,000 jobs.
Julia Goldsworthy, who speaks on local government for the Liberal Democrats, called on ministers to "come clean" about cuts to council funding.
She said: "Three-quarters of council money comes from government grants. John Denham's attempt to wash his hands of blame is outrageous."
The councils are budgeting for an average 2.5% increase in revenue spending - covering running costs rather than capital projects - in the year from April.
But that is a sharp drop on the average 5.3% rise in 2008/09.
In examples of cuts around the country, in Newcastle a homeless hostel says it is having to turn away four out of five people who come asking for a bed because it does not have the funding to look after them all. Its council grant has been frozen.
Nottinghamshire County Council is selling 13 care homes. It says the money saved will be used to provide supported housing for older people. The county is reviewing its community transport schemes.
Leicestershire County Council is planning big cuts in grants to community groups. A community centre in Hinckley, which has 3,000 visitors a week - ranging from pre-school children to 90-year-old lunch club members - fears it might have to close. Library hours are being reduced at Thurrock in Essex.
The survey was sent to 150 chief executives of county and unitary councils and metropolitan and London boroughs. District councils were excluded.
Ninety-three councils responded, giving an overall response rate of 62%, although a lower number chose to answer certain questions.
The survey asked councils to exclude schools from their forecasts because they are funded by direct government grants.
The BBC's survey drew responses from 93 councils across England
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