Harpenden Town Council (HTC) is arguing for the town to become the centre of a national pilot for the banking hub programme.

The council has long been campaigning for the town to have a banking hub, with the final bank branches set to close later this year.

But LINK, the body responsible for assessing whether banking hubs are required, has determined that Harpenden needs a 'deposit service' rather than a full hub.

This is because the town retains a Nationwide Building Society branch, which provides accounts for personal customers but does not offer current accounts for businesses, clubs or charities.

Banking hubs enable people and businesses to access a wide range of services from all the major banks, with each bank having a representative there on at least one day per week.

In a statement published on the council's website, Carl Cheevers, town clerk, said: "A ‘deposit service’ will not meet the needs of the residents and businesses in Harpenden and the surrounding area.

"We have written to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who are very active on this matter and who will soon gain further powers including overseeing the rules and criteria that govern the establishment of full banking hubs.

"We have set out that we believe that it is an anomaly that Nationwide Building Society should be seen as acting as the ‘last bank in town’.

"We have encouraged [the FCA] to review this anomaly as a matter of urgency ... [and] made it clear that it is imperative that we secure a full banking hub for Harpenden by the point at which the Barclays Bank branch closes in September.

"We have therefore proposed to the FCA that they take the opportunity to build on the work that HTC has done locally and uses Harpenden as a pilot by establishing a full banking hub in the Town ... to help inform any future changes to the criteria regarding the ‘last bank in town'."

READ MORE: 'The fight is not over': Reaction to rail freight land sale

Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has also been campaigning for a banking hub in Harpenden.

He has been told that Barclays are set to bring a Barclays Local pop-up branch to the town, and the MP has "pressed" the bank to have this in an "easily accessible High Street location".

But campaigner Derek French, a former director of the Campaign for Community Banking Services, describes the pop-up as "a bit of a window dressing operation".

"When they close a bank, they have to comply with the Access to Banking Standards by issuing the reasons for closure and saying what alternatives they will put in place" - such as a Barclays Local.

The pop-up initiatives are usually open for two days per week and often located in public spaces such as libraries and town halls, similarly to NatWest's 'community banker' scheme that previously operated in Harpenden. Derek compares it to NatWest's 'community banker' scheme that was started five years ago in Harpenden's library and didn't last long.

While the Barclays Local would provide similar services to a Barclays representative in a banking hub, it does not require a long-term commitment to be made and would lack the public visibility that a full hub would have.

Mr Afolami described it as "not an ideal situation", and says he will continue to "to push for a full service banking hub".

Victoria Collins, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Harpenden and Berkhamsted, has echoed Mr Afolami's calls. She has contacted the FCA to express her concern at the decline of banking services in Harpenden.

Ms Collins said: “With so many residents, businesses and charities raising concerns over access to a full banking service, I fully support the call from Harpenden Town Council to launch a Banking Hub Pilot in Harpenden; the Town Council has been at the forefront of that work and Harpenden would be an excellent place to launch the scheme.

"Supporting around 43,000 residents who would have otherwise lost those services is vital for their daily lives and our local economy.”

Barclays are set to publish their branch closure feedback later this summer.