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Update on the Four Day Week Trial in the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service

10/07/2023 - Update on the Four Day Week Trial in the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service

Matter for Decision


By the time this report was received by the Strategy and Resources Committee on Monday 27th March, the 4DW Phase One trial, which included the Shared Planning Service, would be nearing its completion. The Officer’s report provides a brief insight into the first two months of the trial including KPI performance for the Shared Planning Service (which was as much data as was available up to the report deadline date). The report also sets out the next stage of the process, in terms of final evaluation of the trial.


Decision of the Executive Councillor for Finance, Resources, Transformation and Non-Statutory Deputy Leader:


      i.          Note the report and agreed the decision option highlighted in 3.11 for the next stage of the process; a special meeting of the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee will meet and debate the issues to inform a decision the Executive Councillor would make on 15th May.

     ii.          Provide any feedback thought relevant to the Chief Executive of South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Reason for the Decision


As set out in the Officer’s report.


Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected


Not applicable.


Scrutiny Considerations


The Chief Executive of South Cambridgeshire District Council introduced the report.


The Chief Executive of South Cambridgeshire District Council said the following in response to Members’ questions:


      i.          The data in appendix 2 of the Officer’s report (the Pulse survey) was more of a temperature check. The data that they would be using to measure health and wellbeing would be a survey run by Robertson Cooper Ltd, an external agency. It would be a 120-question survey. The survey would be launched later this week and it will be open for 3 weeks.

     ii.          There were surveys for people who were specifically not in the trial to ask what the impact was in consequence of people participating in the trial. Apart from Waste Services there were few people not involved in the trial.

   iii.          The main driver behind trialling the 4-day week was concerns about recruitment. South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC), prior to the trial was carrying over £2 million in employment agency costs as staff turnover was high, which is costly and disruptive. Though could not reasonably expect to get rid of all agency costs, could reasonably expect to get rid of much of those costs which would reduce the cost of services for taxpayers. Therefore, it was in SCDC’s interests to make those sorts of savings and efficiencies rather than cutting or reducing services.

   iv.          No decisions have been made regarding extending the trial at this point. Officers would be providing data and evidence to SCDC Cabinet and to Cambridge City Council Scrutiny Committee. Both Councils would make their decision based on that data and evidence.

    v.          Recruitment was a key issue. The reason for extending the trial for a year was that SCDC could not measure the impact on recruitment in 3 months. The reason the trial did not start with a year was that it was too risky, as this was the first trial in the public sector of the 4-day week. Started with 3 months to see if SCDC could run functionally and see if the performance could be kept up for that time. If trial extended a year would have better data regarding recruitment and retention.

   vi.          It was always the plan to do a 3-month trial to see if performance was maintained.

 vii.          The health and wellbeing survey being launched would identify which service employees belonged to. Therefore, there would be data from people working in the planning service, how they fed back in August 2023 and how they were feeding back in March 2023 as a comparison.

viii.          There would be questions about whether people were able to complete their work in 4 days. Staff would be asked if they wished to be included in the trial if it was extended. Those who do not wish to continue in the trail and wish to work a 5-day week are welcome to do so. Staff who wanted to continue on a 4-day week but are struggling with workload would be provided with support to help them manage their workload.

   ix.          Employees could opt out of the trial is they so wish.

    x.          The planning service had vastly improved its service in the last year.

   xi.          The SCDC Chief Executive agreed that quality of work in the planning service must be maintained during the trial.

 xii.          During the past 6 months SCDC had done more transformation than in the last 3 and a half years combined. The reason was that people want to be more productive, as they were now invested in this process and want the trial to be successful.

xiii.           It was SCDC policy to respond to residents within 14 working days. This would not be affected if an employee had a non-working day on a Friday, so they did not respond to a resident until the following Monday.

xiv.          It would have been preferable to trial waste services first, but it was a much more complicated to do. This was due to doing a round optimisation exercise which was complex and had taken several months.

xv.          Would be able to provide KPI’s regarding processing times for planning applications from before the trial began and during the trial.

xvi.          Staff could choose any day they wished to off at the beginning of the trial. During the trial SCDC realised that it is easier to choose either a Monday or a Friday as a non-working day and have Tuesday-Thursday as core working days. It was still to be determined if this was what would remain in place going forward.

xvii.          No-one specifically requested a 4-day working week. This was an idea put forward by the Chief Executive of SCDC based on discussions with colleagues regarding staff recruitment and retention.

xviii.          Stated that salary was not always the most important factor in recruiting and retention. Based on her conversations SCDC Chief Executive has discovered that quality of life and work/life balance was just as important.

The Committee noted the report.


The Committee resolved (4-0 with 2 abstentions) to endorse the recommendations.:


      i.          That a special meeting of the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee could meet and debate the issues to inform a decision the Executive Councillor would make on 15th May.


The Executive Councillor for Finance, Resources and Transformation and Non-Statutory Deputy Leader approved the recommendations.


Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.