FINANCE chiefs at Cheshire West and Chester Council are forecasting a tiny £2m overspend in the council's overall £750m budget.

The figure was revealed in a report to the Tory controlled Executive on the council's financial performance over the first nine months of the current financial year.

Although there are £3m plus overspends in three of the council's biggest services - adult social care and health, children and young people and community and environment - measures being taken are expected to bring in the small overspend and a £3m boost to the council's coffers.

These are expected to reach £22.5m by the end of the year.

Deputy leader of the council and finance supremo Cllr Les Ford (Con, Frodsham and Helsby) said the position was broadly the same as it had been three months ago.

There had been two major changes of the order of £1m but additional funds negotiated from the NHS had been cancelled out by car parking income moving in the opposite direction.

He described the likely outturn as “very satisfactory" but warned: “We still have considerable pressures."

These include a £30m loss of grant in the next couple of years. Labour finance spokesman Cllr Justin Madders (Central and Westminster) argues most of the measures being taken by the council “are short term ways of tackling the deficit”.

“This report does not give me any comfort there is a long-term strategy in place," he commented.

With the prospect of further downsizing, “there needs to be an honest and open dialogue about how this is all going to fall into place", he believes.

Council leader Cllr Mike Jones (Con, Broxton) insisted the council is already “eight to 12 months ahead" of where it needs to be and is “well on the way to achieving the savings we need to make”.

The increased reserves “will allow us to go through where we can make savings, cutting out waste, making ourselves more efficient and stop doing those things councils should not be doing”.

“We will make sure we deliver good value for our residents by pursuing very sensible and pragmatic options, by protecting as many jobs as possible and front line services while not hesitating to reduce waste and inefficiency."

He described the overspend, estimated at 0.3%, as “a phenomenal achievement if we get there”.

“Most councils in the UK would be delighted to get there rather than where they are at the moment," he suggested.