Jo Swinson has said 'urgent' reform of business rates will stop more shops and pubs closing in the city.

It comes after the Liberal Democrat visited St Albans at the weekend, where she was greeted by a crowd of supporters as her battle bus arrived at the clock tower.

Ms Swinson’s visit to the town coincided with figures released by the Lib Dems revealing that 3,765 ventures closed in the St Albans district between 2016 and 2018 – a 41 per cent increase on the previous three years and the second highest in Hertfordshire.

And during her visit she met with small business owners worried about the high price of business rates.

Sean Hughes, chairman of Save St Albans Pubs, said that high property prices in St Albans had pushed up business rates “astronomically”.

He added: “It’s insane, especially at this time when you have pubs going under or really struggling with their profit margins.”

Alastair Woodgate, president of St Albans Chamber of Commerce, added: “Business rates are a barrier to growth – and a barrier to survival for some.

“There are a lot of other challenges facing business, but if we can get business rates sorted, they’ll be on a much better footing to make a success of things.”

And Sarah Gillow, of Galio jewellers, stressed the need to invest more in the city centre to create “an amazing street scene” and an attractive alternative to shopping online.

While speaking to business owners Ms Swinson said that replacing business rates with a tax on commercial landlords is part of the Lib Dem manifesto.

She continued: “The new tax would help save money and for the vast majority of businesses would be a fairer way of levying the property charge.”