William Eichler 03 July 2023

Minister criticises council’s four-day week trial

Minister criticises council’s four-day week trial  image
Image: Sinseeho / Shutterstock.com.

South Cambridgeshire District Council has requested a meeting with local government minister Lee Rowley after receiving a letter from the Government urging it to stop the four-day week trial.

Mr Rowley wrote to Liberal Democrat council leader Bridget Smith asking her to ‘end your experiment immediately’. He cited concerns over ‘value for money’.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said, councils ‘need to ensure they are giving local taxpayers the best value for money and pressing ahead with the choice to remove up to a fifth of their capacity would need to be backed by clear evidence.’

However, Cllr Smith has written back expressing her surprise and pointing out that so far the local authority has reduced their annual bill by £300,000.

‘I was surprised to receive Mr Rowley’s letter and we have written to him to request a meeting with ministers to discuss this matter,’ she said.

‘This is a trial, but we have already seen strong independently assessed evidence which showed that performance was maintained, and in some cases improved, in the first three months.’

She continued: ‘At the start of our trial we were carrying a £2m annual agency bill. During the first three months of the trial, we filled four permanent posts that had previously been impossible to fill. This has reduced our annual bill by £300,000. As time goes on it is becoming increasingly clear that recruitment has been positively affected, both in terms of the quality and number of applicants, and the consequent success in filling vacant posts.’

The council’s trial has also been criticised by the local MP Anthony Browne who warned of the risk of ‘a new left-wing horror show that could sweep the country’.

If this story was of interest, then check out our feature, ‘Who’s afraid of the four-day week?’

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