Government calls time on councils running four-day weeks

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities tells councils to cease any four-day working week trials immediately

Councils should stop any four-day week trials immediately and rule out adopting the practice in future to ensure taxpayers’ money is well spent, according to new government guidance issued to the sector today.

The publication comes after letters from Minister Rowley to South Cambridgeshire District Council, calling on the local authority to cease its trial over value for money concerns.

The guidance sets out the government’s position that removing 20% of a local authority’s potential capacity does not offer value for money for residents. It makes clear that value for money for taxpayers is paramount and no further focus should be given by councils on this issue. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is also exploring measures to ensure the sector is clear this should not be pursued.

Minister for Local Government Lee Rowley said:

“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 those 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.”

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.”

The Government continues to support an individual’s right to request flexible working, which allows individual employees to apply for changes to the hours, timing, or location of work, which is clearly different to a blanket four-day working week on a full salary, across the whole organisation.

In July, DLUHC launched the new Office for Local Government (Oflog) to increase councils’ accountability for their performance. Oflog will ensure the sector can access clear and high-quality performance data and examples of great practice from other councils.

The department is also leading a pilot called Future Councils to accelerate digital and cyber improvements across the sector. The pilot is currently funding eight councils to innovate on solutions that unblock systemic barriers to change and improve services for residents.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Lee Rowley MP