OUR ‘Just to Phil You in’ column returns once again this week.

In this edition, Test Valley Borough Council leader Phil North takes a look at the Budget announcement on Monday and the impact it could have on Andover, particularly the town centre and transformation projects which are in the pipeline.

The Budget provided some really welcome news for Andover High Street this week, as the chancellor announced a new business rates relief, which will help most of our pubs, shops, restaurants and cafés in the town centre.

The new £900m fund means that all retail premises with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will have their business rates bill cut by a third.

I hope this announcement will also dilute the often widely-held myth that the council sets the level of business rates and all we have to do to solve the problems in our town centres is to lower the rates.

These measures will undoubtedly help and will be a lifeline for our retail sector, but in the longer term, I believe there needs to be a more fundamental overhaul of the entire business rates system, which focusses less on bricks and mortar and more on what is appropriate for our digital age.

The chancellor was also right to recognise, and he used these words himself, ‘that the change our high streets face is irreversible’.

The continued sophistication of the internet, as well as a change in shopping habits, has meant that town centres are becoming more of a place for leisure and living, not just for retail.

This is a change I have been talking about for some time – and why I’m delighted that the chancellor also announced a £675M Future High Streets fund to support councils draw up formal plans for the transformation of their town centres.

Considering our comprehensive ambitions to invest in Andover; with a new Riverside Park at Town Mills; a Cultural Quarter on the site of the former Magistrates Court and a redevelopment of the Chantry Centre, then this fund is potentially a really exciting opportunity for us.

The good news is that we are already ahead of the curve here - and are currently carrying out the not insignificant background work to deliver these.

Finally, some newspapers have dubbed the Budget the Phil-Good Factor, I hope they aren’t going to steal all the Andover Advertiser’s thunder in Phil-based punnery!