BANKING services should use space in libraries to return to town centre as “there is a need to visit a bank”, insists a council leader.

Calls are mounting for libraries to host the banking service after various closures across Basildon and south Essex.

Last June it was announced Billericay's High Street branch was one of the 27 banks to close. Wickford High Street Santander also shut last year.

Andrew Baggott, Tory leader of Basildon Council, said: “I think it’s a no brainer and the banks are not very customers orientated.

“I think it’s a good alternative and it’s immensely important we have banks open in our town centres.

“There are issues with people paying bills with banks shut and not everyone is online. I think there is space and scope in our libraries and it would help bring people back to our libraries too.

“We are all affected by the bank closures and there is a need to visit a bank and speak to someone to person.”

Almost 200 banks have closed in the last year including the likes of Santander, NatWest, Halifax and HSBC.

It also comes after John Baron Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay has been calling for banking hubs in Billericay after the HSBC closure.

Geoff Pearson, service delivery plan manager for Essex libraries told Essex County Council’s People and Families Scrutiny Committee on January 11: “We are working with commercial to look at a service level agreement that libraries can offer where possible where we can hire out space to organisations such as banks.

“Banks don’t know this yet. We are looking at ways to increase revenue.

“But voluntary sector with no specific claim on space is free, then you go up through the scale through to a post office which will be paying quite a lot of money.”

He said the council was looking to replicate the sort of service that some bank offer with their mobile banking vans. They will likely have to fit in with hours of the library.

He added: “There is scope there. For example some partners operate in libraries when the libraries are shut. What we are aware of is the cost involved particularly with fuel prices and so on means we can’t offer that space for free in the way we might have done before.”