Stop the clock off spreading

By: Olivia O'Mahony, intern at the TaxPayers' Alliance


We at the TaxPayers' Alliance have written to every council leader across the UK to ask them to pledge not to introduce a four-day week for staff during their leadership. Taxpayers deserve reassurance that they won’t be paying for a part-time council, at a time when many are considering just that. 


Our research shows that, if implemented across the public sector, a four-day week could cost £30 billion in lost working time. As the tax burden reaches a 70-year high, and public services are being run into the ground, taxpayers deserve more for their money than a part-time public sector. 


The little evidence that has been published to support a four-day week is unconvincing. Reducing working hours by 20 per cent would require a 25 per cent increase in productivity overnight just to breakeven. Anything less and either services suffer or taxes will have to climb even higher. This looks to be little more than a pipe dream, given the fact that there was only a 4.1 per cent increase in public sector productivity in the 20 years leading up to 2019. 


Taxpayers deserve value for money, and there are no signs that the four-day week will provide this. South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) have discredited their working practices in the process of their trial. Guidance for improving productivity is based on the most basic of office management techniques, including the avoidance of work duplication, shorter work meetings, and ensuring employees are in the correct location. Considering such working practices as a modern shake up casts concern on the historic productivity of the council. 


For a scheme still in its infancy, the public sector should not be at the forefront of the experiment. Despite repeated calls from the government to end the trial, SCDC have continued to press on. Local Government Minister, Lee Rowley, wrote to the council, expressing concerns about the ‘value for money’ of the scheme. The priorities of the council are clear, and the taxpayer does not come out on top. 


Last month, our campaign in Bassetlaw saw the local council leader climb down, saying he ‘regrets saying anything’ about the idea of a four-day week. Our pledge will ask all council leaders to follow suit in ruling out such a trial and reassuring taxpayers that their money is not being wasted on a careless experiment. 


If you agree, we have created a handy tool to write to the leader of your council, to ask them to sign our pledge. Simply fill in your name, postcode (so they know you are a resident) and council area. 

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