Skip to content

The council behind Britain’s first four-day week for staff has been ordered to call off the experiment because it could be breaking the law.

Local government minister Lee Rowley has written to Liberal Democrat-run South Cambridgeshire District Council demanding it abandons, after the experiment drew criticism for depriving residents of basic services.

It is understood all local councils will receive guidance from the Government next week warning that a four-day week for staff could be against the law.

The Lib Dem council gave staff an extra day off every week while paying them full salaries in a three-month test run and planned to extend the trial.

However Mr Rowley wrote: “I strongly believe in the ability of councils to innovate and find new ways to discharge their responsibilities – yet removing up to 20 per cent of the capacity to do those activities is not something which should be acceptable for a council seeking to demonstrate value for money for its taxpayers and residents.

“I look forward to your confirmation that South Cambridgeshire will be returning to established norms around local government workforce capacity in the coming weeks ahead.”

The minister warned members that scaling back public services throughout the week could violate the Local Government Act 1999, which binds councils to a ‘duty of best value’.

Now, one of the claims of the 4 day wekk is that productivity rises. This could well be true. Output per hour worked could indeed rise with fewer hours worked. What the Minister is askinng is whether prpoductivity has risen by 25% (maybe 20%, can never recall how these percentages work) so that output is maintained even with 20% fewer hours being worked.

His assumption is that it isn’t up that much therefore ratepayers are getting fewer services – which is laughingly being equated to worse but there we are – and so are being diddled.

The actual answer, well, dunno. Even as I do know that this isn’t the right question.

Which is, well, if we can raise productivity by 20 to 25%, why don’t we fire 20 to 25% of the workers and thereby have those same services at 75 to 80% of the cost?

21 thoughts on “Wonderful fun”

  1. Are we paying those workers for the hours worked or for the output delivered?

    It seems to me the claim they can get the same done in 80% of the hours and therefore should receive the same remuneration is an assertion by the workers that payment is for output not hours.

    Fair enough, but change contracts to reflect that.

  2. ’ The minister warned members that scaling back public services throughout the week could violate the Local Government Act 1999…’

    Well, does it? Put it to a test case and find out!

  3. Surely they’ll find that they can’t do what they’re supposed to within the 4 day week. Therefore they need more staff, and more money to pay them!!

  4. What has happened with previous experiments is that first, a team came in and reviewed processes and working practices. For example, cutting 2 hour meetings back to 30 minute meetings. So, cut a load of waste, which means people work better.

    And this reflects a problem with the public sector, that it just doesn’t keep moving. You see this with rail and how it hasn’t improved in 20 years, while air, buses, coaches have all significantly improved. OK, sure, coaches are still slower, but book early and you pay 1/3rd of the price.

  5. Cutting out the crap can easily save at least one day a week. Unfortunately it’s not the crap that gets cut. The mandatory “training” and pointless meetings still get done, so it’s a larger percentage of productive work lost.

  6. I love it that one of these highly efficient shirkers is the parent of a Just Stop Oil scammer, paid by Dale Vincent to piss us all off. To further support his offspring’s desire to JUST STOP OIL I would be intrigued to learn what lubricants the family use for their swimming pool machinery. As part of the scam Dale has bunged Sir Kneel £1,500,000 to commit to using more Green energy and bung Dale more subsidies. Good game, eh?

  7. As per @ WfM
    I propose paying council staff as follows… Pay = Number of [name service provided] delivered x rate per service

    So….
    Number of bins emptied x rate per bin
    Number of potholes filled x rate per hole
    Number of bums wipes in care homes x rate per bum
    etc

    Not sure that is what they mean, though

  8. Number of bins emptied x rate per bin
    Number of potholes filled x rate per hole
    Number of bums wipes in care homes x rate per bum

    The problem is that the vast majority of the well paid in Councils (Local Government Officers as they laughingly call themselves) are paper pushers for whom the greatest efficiencies could be achieved by firing them all.

    100% productivity gain at a minimum, depending how many frontline council workers were having their time wasted by said paper pushers.

  9. The thing that gets me with these 4-day-week experiments is that it can’t be very fun being in the control group…

  10. “Number of bins emptied x rate per bin
    Number of potholes filled x rate per hole
    Number of bums wipes in care homes x rate per bum etc”

    The problem with this approach is that the “Operatives” (as they are described on council vehicles) will simply do an even more slap-dash job than they do now. You would have to write a specific description for each job, and employ someone to monitor the work…

  11. Penseivat! That is surely the most outrageous suggestion! The leader of the workers party susceptible to bribes? Surely not!

  12. Is this the council that introduced a four day week only for someone to reveal that the council leader was doing a PhD on the subject of four day weeks?

    What? Doing it out for her own self-interest instead of for the good of the inhabitants? Unthinkable!

  13. @jgh – well yeah, exactly. But these things are always positioned as ‘experiments’ or in some way scientific to prove the case, so there must be a control, right? Otherwise it would just be a case of “right lads, we just need to put it in for a couple of months then it’s Fridays off evermore…”. (Probably not even that if it’s the council we’re talking about).

    I do have a funny image in my head though of a department being spilt in two and one half being told they get an extra day off a week…

  14. “Which is, well, if we can raise productivity by 20 to 25%, why don’t we fire 20 to 25% of the workers and thereby have those same services at 75 to 80% of the cost?”

    It’s typical of economists to think that people and their hours are so interchangeable. What makes you think that a five day week is optimal? What about five and a half days (half day Saturday), or even six days?

  15. When we went from six-day weeks to five-day weeks, did people get paid for not working on Saturday?

  16. Looks like Ebenezer Scrooge had the right idea after all. He would make a great council boss for some of these outfits.

  17. @jgh

    Effectively, yes. Most people are paid by the week or month, so changing the number of days worked does not change what they are paid. For those who are paid an hourly rate, they can work five or six days as it pleases them and negotiate a higher rate if they can do in five days that was previously done in six.

  18. As a “Street Cleansing Operative” in one of the biggest shitholes in Europe, I’ll gladly take the Number of bins emptied x rate per bin option…

    I could retire in 6 months

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *