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Working Arrangements: Local Government

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 26 October 2023

I would like to update the House on the Government’s position regarding the small number of councils currently experimenting, or proposing to experiment, with the use of four-day working weeks within local government.

Local councils play a pivotal role in the delivery of core public services and in the regeneration of their communities. The sector has a deserved reputation for effectiveness in much of its delivery and in having improved its efficiency over the last decade. Local government’s continued ability to find new, more effective and efficient ways to discharge their responsibilities and to deliver high-quality services for their residents has been a vital part of our mission to repair the nation’s finances since 2010.

The reputation of local government, however, is being impacted by the ideological experimentation of a small number of councils that are attempting to suggest that the removal of 20% of their workforce’s productive capacity can, somehow, result in increased overall corporate output. Asking the taxpayer to shoulder the full-time expense for part-time hours by deleting 20% of the working week is not compatible with a council’s requirement to demonstrate value for money.

In normal circumstances, the Government of course respect the right of councils to make their own decisions on key issues. There are also times, however, when the Government deem it proportionate to step in to ensure that residents’ value for money is protected. The issue of the four-day working week is one of those times.

As a result, today I am publishing clear guidance setting out the Department’s expectations for local authorities in England that are considering adopting a four-day working week or that have done so already. This guidance makes it clear that the Government do not support a four-day working week and do not expect councils to adopt this arrangement. This guidance will support councils in discharging their duties and to ensure that they maintain their work to continuously improve and demonstrate best value.

The Government are being extremely clear that they do 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 that have adopted it already should end this 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.

A copy of the four-day working week guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.