Local council extends four-day working week trial despite ‘worse’ services

A council is extending its four-day working week scheme, despite some of its servicing getting worse as a result of the trial. South Cambridgeshire District Council has agreed to extend the scheme until March next year following a three-month trial which saw desk-based staff being paid the same working 32 hours a week, 20 percent less than before. However, a report found that the council “consistently performed below the target across all three months of the trial”.

The Liberal Democrat-run group plans to extend those involved in the scheme to now include bin crews and fly-tipping officials.

This is despite the report, by the University of Cambridge, which found that two areas performed below the target level.

The average call wait time rose 14.5 percent compared to before the trial, meaning the council’s average answer time now takes around 150 seconds on average.

The average days taken to re-let housing also underperformed according to the report.

Out of 12 key performance indicators, just four were marked green with the rest being “at or above target level”.

The original trial ran from January to March and included 450 desk-based members of staff working a 32-hour week on the fame full-time pay.

Council leader Bridget Smith said it is “about working smarter and becoming more productive”.

Ms Smith said: “The data from our trial, which has been robustly analysed by a highly qualified team at the University of Cambridge, has shown that our services to residents and businesses have been maintained – or in some cases, improved, and there has been a positive impact on staff wellbeing.”

However, not everyone is so happy about the extension of the scheme.

Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire Anthony Browne said the scheme showed “services are getting worse”.

He told GB News: “Local authorities should be there to serve the public rather than the public serving the officials.

“This has clearly led to a deterioration of some services and I am delighted that officials are happier but that can’t be the primary focus of a local authority.

“The trouble is I am completely happy for private sector practices to do whatever they like but if you are a local authority then the public depends on the services you provide.”

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Ms Smith, added that the date was “robustly analysed” before hailing the trail a “success”.

She said: “It is now time to see whether a four-day week can have a positive impact on the critical recruitment and retention issues that we face over a longer term.

“The savings we make will help support the delivery of frontline services, especially for those impacted by the cost of living crisis. This is all in line with our aim to be a modern and caring Council.

“We should also remember that the five-day work week is around 100 years old. Across the country, we work some of the longest hours in Europe and yet somehow, have one of the least productive economies.

“This idea of a four-day week is absolutely not about working less. It is about working smarter and becoming more productive. That is exactly what we have done in the first part of this year.”

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