There is a projected spending gap of £11.7m in Swindon Borough Council’s revenue budget for 2021-22 – the pot of money for which it will pay for everyday services.

That represents 7.6 per cent of the £153m budget for the year but will be reduced after a government Covid-19 grant of £5.7m.

As the council’s cabinet member for climate change and finance Keith Williams briefed his Conservative administration colleagues, it emerged his predecessor Coun Russell Holland and top finance officers at Euclid Street had been concerned about approaching possible bankruptcy at this point last year.

In the corresponding month in 2020 the council’s finances had been much harder hit by Covid-19 and the lockdown – it was spending much more money that it had budgeted on supporting people who were shielding, and it had not received its expected revenue from places like Coate Water, Steam and Lydiard Park. The lack of activity in lockdown meant its car park revenues had plummeted.

In September 2020 the projected overspend was more than £18m and Labour group leader Jim Grant said: “The section 151 officer (the council’s chief finance officer) was concerned enough to circulate a briefing paper to councillors explaining what would happen if the council could not fulfill its statutory duties and have to declare itself, in effect, bankrupt.

Coun Grant added: “At what size of a projected overspend would members of this cabinet be concerned about this council going bankrupt?”

Both Coun Williams and leader of the council David Renard pointed out that it was not at all unusual for there to be a significant projected spending gap at this point in the financial year.

Coun Renard said: “There is always a budget shortfall at this time of year but by March we will have balanced the budget as we have done every year since 2006.”

In response to Coun Grant’s comment that it appeared that central government looked like it wanted to “claw back” at least some of the extra support it has given over the last two years, Coun Williams said: “We will lobby the government, and our two MPs are senior members of the government.

“We have very capable officers who are working now to find efficiencies in the budget.”

Two of the most significant pressures on the budget are a projected £3.8m overspend by adults’ social services and a £2.5m overspend by children’s services – both affected by increased demand during and after the pandemic.