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Cambridge City Council

Statement on South Cambridgeshire District Council's continuing four-day week trial

27 October 2023

Following the publication by government of non-statutory guidance for local authorities regarding the four-day working week, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council have provided the following statements in response to media enquiries. 

The Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, said: “Our initial three-month trial saw performance generally maintained, and in some cases improved – with not a single area falling to a concerning level. There was strong evidence it was helping us fill hard to recruit posts and improving retention, so we extended the trial to test that over a longer period. Since January, our sickness rates have fallen by a third, staff turnover has reduced by 36%, and complaints about services involved in the trial are down too.

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.

“Before we announced the trial, we were spending about £2 million a year on 23 agency staff who were covering vacancies - often in specialist roles where the private sector pays more. This bill could be halved if all the agency posts were filled permanently. We have now filled 13 of these posts - mainly in the planning service - that are notoriously ‘hard to fill’ due to the national shortage of planners. Filling these posts means we expect to spend significantly less on agency staff covering vacancies this year. At the end of the trial, we will present the evidence to residents and businesses and all councillors will then decide whether to continue with a four-day week. I wish the Government would take-up our offer of talking to us in-person about the trial so we can outline all the benefits we can evidence so far.”

South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils share some services, including planning and waste. A four-day week trial for the waste service started in mid-September.

Cllr Mike Davey, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We have been supportive of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s 4 Day Week trial to see how it can work for local government – to benefit work-life balance, improve productivity, and vitally address recruitment and retention challenges compounded by thirteen years of budget reductions from the government.

“We will continue to support the SCDC trial to its conclusion and look forward to learning from the outcomes. The recent introduction of a four day waste collection in South Cambs and City has gone extremely well so far. Data from the first five weeks shows we have exceeded our 99.7% collection target. We will of course continue to monitor the data to ensure that service levels remain high for our residents.”

  • Further details about South Cambridgeshire District Council’s four day week trial are available on its website.

The executive councillor leading on this matter is Cllr Mike Davey (Labour), Leader of the Council. Spokespersons from the other political groups on this issue are Cllr Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat) and Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green). Find councillor contact details