Bosses at Swindon Borough Council have managed to save £6 million in just a few months to close what was a looming gap in this year’s budget.

And they think they can set a balanced budget for the next financial year in February, but only at the cost of spending millions of the authority’s cash reserves, which will have to be accounted for the year after.

The Labour administration’s cabinet member for finance Kevin Small said a £6.5 million gap between what the council was expecting to spend this year and the money it had budgeted had been cut to just £600,000.

He said: “This has been a lot of hard work by officers but I’m cautiously optimistic that by the end of March we can get this gap down to nothing, or even have a little surplus – which will be used to relieve pressure on services.”

About £3m of the £6m saved came from releasing a contingency fund that had been set aside for managing business rates, but was not needed, whilst £250,000 from funds the council had earmarked to appeal against a ruling removing a school from Foxbridge North New Eastern Village was also made available when the appeal was denied.

Another £250,000 was saved from work on the local plan.

Cllr Small said: “Most of the rest of the money was saved by cutting all non-essential spending and not filling empty posts and also as you approach the end of the year departments might have been holding on to some money in case it’s needed but as the year goes by they release it back if they know it won’t be.”

Cllr Small and the finance officers are also confident they can set a balanced budget next month for the financial year starting in April. Towards the end of last year, the council said it was looking at a £14m overspend but a drop in inflation, and other sources of income have cut that gap to £6.7m.

Additionally, there will be 80 full-time equivalent salaries saved from the council’s payroll, with some people having to be made redundant, and other posts, which are unfilled, will not be recruited for.

Cllr Small said: “It will give me no pleasure to stand up and present this budget. As a Labour councillor I came into local government to provide good services for people, not be cutting them or stretching them to the limit."

“But it’s vital that we set a balanced budget and continue to provide services as best we can.”