HIGHER business rates and the chance to increase council tax has helped Mid Devon to shrink its budget deficit.

The authority has cut its projected deficit for the 2024/25 financial year, which begins in April, to £150,000 this month from more than £400,000 in December.

But Paul Deal, corporate manager for finance at the district council, told councillors at a recent meeting that more recent figures meant the authority could probably now propose a balanced budget.

“Now that we’ve had the financial settlement from government, we’ll be provided with slightly more grant funding than expected, and we have found more savings through our build and control partnership, where we are now responsible for a lower share of the costs, and we have greater flexibility regarding council tax,” he told the community policy development group meeting.

Previously Mid Devon expected it would be able to increase council tax by up to two per cent without holding a referendum, but the government has allowed district councils to increase the charge by up to three per cent without doing so.

Mr Deal added: “We’ve been reviewing business rates, and that should enable us to close the gap completely in our budget.”

While some business rates are being frozen or discounts maintained, such as for small businesses and some retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, those that don’t qualify will see a 6.7 per cent increase from April.

Changes to business rates are controlled by Westminster, with councils collecting the levy, and keeping 75 per cent.

A Mid Devon District Council spokesperson said: “The council is charging business rates in accordance with regulations – the increase is the standard multiplier that was set by central government.”

The increase in government grants helped reduce the deficit most, accounting for £85,000, while additional council tax should bring in £53,000.

Bradley Gerrard