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Councils warned to end four-day week now: Government tells town halls to scrap plans and end trials immediately amid deepening row over worse service for residents


  •  South Cambridgeshire district council only English authority with the policy
  •  Government says it is concerned service quality will slip with the changes 
  •  Council say it has led to improved recruitment and savings of £500,000

A District Council is continuing to fight the government over its use of the four-day week for its staff amidst mounting pressure to scrap the scheme.

Local authorities across England have been told to abandon plans for four-day weeks, while telling those looking to carry out future trials to stop immediately.

South Cambridgeshire district council, believed to be the only English authority experimenting with a four-day week, says the change in schedule has led to improved recruitment and savings of £500,000 on agency workers.

Office staff and refuse collectors at the council are paid the same for working 20 per cent fewer hours.

However, the government says it is concerned service quality will slip with the changes to working practices, publishing new guidance this week stating the practice did not provide value for the tax payers money.

Lee Rowley, the minister for local government, wrote a letter to the council calling on it to 'end your experiment immediately'

Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire district council, says the change in schedule has led to improved recruitment and savings of £500,000

Lee Rowley, the minister for local government, wrote a letter to Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire district council, calling on it to ‘end your experiment immediately’

South Cambridgeshire District Council was told it risked a costly legal challenge as it failed to seek people's views before bringing in the radical change

South Cambridgeshire District Council was told it risked a costly legal challenge as it failed to seek people’s views before bringing in the radical change

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said councils with a four-day week ‘should cease immediately’ and threatened consequences for those who pursued the strategy in the future.

This will end Norwich city council’s plans to test out the practise, while the Scottish government is now unlikely to pilot a four-day public sector working week.

The guidance says: ‘Councils which are undertaking four-day working week activities should cease immediately and others should not seek to pursue in any format.

‘Value for local taxpayers is paramount and no further focus should be given by local authorities on this matter.

‘The department is also exploring other measures to ensure that the sector is clear that this working practice should not be pursued.’

South Cambridgeshire District Council was told it risked a costly legal challenge as it failed to seek people’s views before bringing in the radical change, angering taxpayers who saw their council tax rise at the same time.

Despite the warning, the council says it is keen to continue implementing the four-day working week.

Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire district council, told the Times: ‘Every decision we make centres on what is best for the communities who elect us. Our offices are open five days a week, and we can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week in an emergency like during last week’s flooding. Local councils should always be free to decide the best way to deliver services for the residents they represent.

‘On one hand government tells us to innovate to cut costs and provide higher-quality services; on the other they tell us not to innovate to deliver services. We are best placed to make these decisions in our area, which has high private sector wages and housing costs, making it very difficult to attract and retain talented staff we need to deliver for residents and businesses.’

The guidance was issued after Local Government minister Lee Rowley wrote a letter to the council calling on it to ‘end your experiment immediately’ due to concerns about the ‘value for money’ for local taxpayers.

The instructions set out that removing 20 per cent of a local authority’s potential capacity does not offer value for money for residents.

Lee Rowley, the minister for local government, added: ‘The government is being crystal clear that it does not support the adoption of the four-day working week within the local government sector.

‘Local authorities that are considering adopting it should not do so. Those who have adopted it already should end that practice immediately.

‘Those councils who continue to disregard this guidance are now on notice that the government will take necessary steps in the coming months ahead to ensure that this practice is ended within local government.’



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