Bexley Council could be forced into “unplanned and unforeseen” cuts to due to its dire financial position, councillors have heard, in troubling news for the authority’s future.

Members of Bexley’s general purposes and audit committee were also informed the council could be forced to dig into its reserves in the coming year, in a further blow given the continued challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

A representative of the independent auditor tasked with going over council’s books told members there remained “uncertainty over the council’s ability to close the financial gap in 2021/22” to the extent there were questions over the council’s ability to continue “without making unplanned changes to service provision”.

Cllr Cheryl Bacon was among the members were voiced their concerns on the update, saying “2018 to 2020” had seen reserve levels head “significantly in the wrong direction”.

Labour leader Dan Francis said the report showed a “number of issues where auditors weren’t happy with how things were prepared” and asked if they might be in breach of local council regulations.

He was told the council was “technically probably in beach of the council audit regulations” however there were “no penalties associated with that”.

Cllr Francis later added he was “really concerned now about some of our governance issues”.

“I can’t remember being in this position with this level of concern,” he said of authority’s reserves.

Central to auditor’s worries, they said, was a budget gap of £29.3m predicted over the next three years.

The auditor said there was a “significant risk” of council reserves being used if the gap wasn’t closed.

“My concern is you may find yourself with significantly reduced reserves within the next 12 months and no longer term plan to recover them,” members heard.

The council’s finances are set to be discussed further in a public meeting of Bexley’s cabinet next month.