The biggest bout of industrial unrest for years is expected to break out in the Midlands as council workers and civil servants strike in a bitter dispute over pay.
The walkout by members of three unions will lead to the closure of 18 schools and libraries in Birmingham, with disruption to a host of services including refuse collections, Birmingham City Council's website said.
In Wolverhampton, more than 40 schools are closed or partially closed, and household refuse, green garden waste and kerbside recycling will not be collected.
All libraries in Stoke-On-Trent are closed, as well as eight schools and Coventry City Council said 12 schools were closed and refuse collections disrupted.
In Staffordshire 20 schools are closed or partially closed. Nine in Worcestershire are shut and a similar number in Herefordshire and Shropshire are closed, where day care centres and libraries will also be hit.
Unison and Unite said they expected more than half a million workers throughout the UK to join the 48-hour walkout on both Wednesday and Thursday in protest at a rejected 2.45 per cent pay offer.
In a separate pay row, members of the Public and Commercial Services union, including driving test examiners and coastguards will take industrial action in the next few days.
Council workers will stage rallies in towns and cities across the country during the strike, which will heap more pressure on the Prime Minister as he grapples with the UK's economic problems.
Tuesday's increase in the Consumer Price Index to 3.8 per cent and RPI inflation to 4.8 per cent heightened the resolve of workers to secure a bigger pay rise this year, said unions.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "The pounds in local government workers' pockets are turning to pennies. The cost of everyday essentials like milk, bread, petrol, gas and electricity are going through the roof - our members cannot afford to take another cut in their pay.
"Strike action is always a last resort but we have been left with no choice. Local government employers are sitting on £3 billion worth of efficiency savings made by our members they could use to settle the strike now. There is no need to ask the Government for more, no need to put up council taxes and no need to cut jobs or services."
Unite national officer Peter Allenson said: "The blame for this dispute and the disruption to essential services sits squarely on the shoulders of the local government employers. The public will ask why a pay cut is forced on some of the country's lowest paid workers while their employers hoard multi-millions in savings.
"Neither though can central government sit on the sidelines doing nothing. With 61 per cent of local authority income coming from central government, they have clear responsibility to ensure these workers earn a living wage."
Local government employers reiterated that the 2.45 per cent was the final offer, warning that a bigger rise would have to be funded through higher council taxes or cuts in services.
Jan Parkinson, managing director of the local government employers, said: "It is disappointing that the unions are taking staff out on strike when only 7 per cent of them voted for industrial action. Council workers will lose two days' pay and many of them can ill-afford this.
"The settlement on the table is affordable to the council tax payer and will also make sure local government continues to be an attractive place to work. Employees on the lower grades will also receive an extra £100 a year, which equates to an overall pay increase of 3.3 per cent."
Commenting on union claims that councils are sitting on money kept in reserve that could be used to pay people more, Jan Parkinson said: "The whole point of contingency funds is to make sure that in lean times council services still get provided to the most vulnerable in society.
"The rising costs of oil, petrol and diesel have increased the cost to councils of providing local services by £239 million in the last two years. Local authorities are already having to dip into these emergency funds in order to protect front line services."
Shadow local government secretary Eric Pickles said: "All families across Britain are feeling the pinch due to the soaring cost of living under the Labour. But the answer is not to raid council budgets and smash the town hall piggy bank. Council tax bills will soar if weak Labour ministers surrender to militant union demands."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The growing gap between wages and inflation is the reason why thousands of council workers will reluctantly be going on strike. All they want is a decent living wage, something the 2.45 per cent is simply not going to give them.
"Claims that decent wages will lead to spiralling inflation are wrong. There is no evidence that pay awards are driving prices upwards now and no evidence that they will do so in the future."
Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "Of course the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole acknowledges the very important work that many people who work for local authorities do.
"The Government doesn't set local authority workers' pay. This is an issue between local authorities and local authority workers.
"We have had to make some difficult decisions over the last year or two in relation to a wide range of public sector workers in order keep inflation lower than it might otherwise have been, which has enabled the Bank of England to keep interest rates lower than they would otherwise have been."
Driving test examiners will strike on Wednesday, while staff at the Valuation Office Agency will take industrial action on both days.
Home Office and Land Registry workers will strike for part of Friday, coastguards will launch a 48-hour stoppage on Friday while employees at the Identity and Passport Service will strike for 72 hours from July 23.
For details of Midland strikes including schools, refuse collections and council buildings.