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Council's four-day working week may have saved over £300,000

South Cambridgshire District Council's Offices in Cambourne span 64,500 square feet.

It was a controversial move by South Cambridgeshire District Council to move some staff to a four-day working week. But the results may just vindicate the decision.

SCDC became the first local authority in the United Kingdom to trial a shorter week, recently extending it into Quarter 1 2024.  Now, a new study suggests that it may actually have saved £333,000 so far.  

The Liberal Democrat controlled council said the trial had helped it fill job vacancies and save money, while an early study suggested performance had not been hit.

The pilot has naturally attracted much attention and scrutiny, so Cambridge University researcher Nina Jörden, offered to analyse how well the council was performing.

Dr Jörden, who is a research associate at the Bennett Institute, specialises in the future of work.  Speaking to BBC Politics East she said:

"We have analysed 16 different performance indicators that were provided from the council to us and we have analysed them in quite a comprehensive way. We have found that in most of the cases the performances were maintained.

"Some services even improved their performance. Some showed a slight decrease in performance - however, when we compared that to the historical average there were no significant outliers. There was no concern."

Bridget Smith, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council, explained why the Local Authority had decided to trial a four-day week.

"We've been really struggling for years to fill all our vacancies" and relied on agency staff to fill gaps.

"On average we only fill about 80% and we have some vacancies that we have been carrying for years, particularly in planning," she said.

"We had to do something. We have already managed to deliver a third of a million pounds in savings, largely because we've now filled some of those really difficult to fill roles within planning.

"It means we're delivering a much better planning service to our residents."

"Our contact centre is open all the time and in fact is open rather longer hours than before we started the trials. It's now open on a Wednesday evening as well. Everyone gets exactly the same service five days a week," said Ms Smith.

The trial is now being extended beyond desk-based staff; even including bin collection staff through the summer months.  This does come with an extra cost as the council will require extra lorries and staff to collect rubbish across four days rather than five.

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