THE leader of the borough council has called for “a more fundamental review” of the business rates system to give high street retailers a fairer deal.

It comes as Test Valley Borough Council’s (TVBC) cabinet approved the authority’s spending plans for the forthcoming year, and discussed updates on its capital programme and discretionary relief rates policy.

While addressing the latter, Councillor Phil North stressed that although the rates are not controlled by the council, he will continue to lobby for a review from central government of the business rates system.

He said: “There is a myth out there that we control the rates but obviously they are a function of central government and the valuation agency.

“But we do need – and I’ve made this point to central government on numerous occasions – that we need a more fundamental review of the business rates system to make it fairer for high street businesses against online retailers,” he added.

Moments earlier councillors had rubber stamped a report outlining recommended updates to the authority’s discretionary relief rates policy.

The changes include the re-introduction of the pub relief, in which pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 will receive a £1,000 discount on their business rates, plus an increase in retail relief and an update to the criteria of the supporting small business relief.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting councillors discussed the authority’s spending plans for 2020/21.

The plans, which were announced last week, have now formally been put forward after cabinet voted in favour of them. They will now be debated at full council at the end of the month.

The plans see significant funds allocated to green spaces, playground improvements and brand new waste vehicles as well as funding to continue plans for Andover and Romsey’s town centre.

Funding for sports facilities, other new vehicles and planting have also been accounted for over the next 12 months as the council continues to invest in vital services across the borough.

The proposed council tax resolution will see Test Valley’s portion of the council tax rise in line with inflation to help fund the millions of pounds that the authority spends on services across the borough every year - meaning residents would pay £146.41 a year for the average band D property, an increase of less than 10p a week.

Discussing the plans on Wednesday, Cllr David Drew specifically addressed the Andover “special levy” – a tax which critics have labelled as “unnecessary” and a “double-tax” as it is paid on top of a precept for Andover town council.

Cllr Drew, a former chairman of Andover town council, says that although the town council may think differently, he believes the levy “continues to be very good value for money” for residents.

He added: “I know that they [at the town council] would love to do stuff with that but, frankly, at the moment the residents are getting a really good deal with that arrangement.”