Anthony has welcomed the news that South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC)’s four-day working week trial is now subject to additional scrutiny from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The Department issued a Best Value Notice on 3rd November 2023, expressing concerns about SCDC's trial. This follows the Council’s decision to defy previous instructions from the Government to cease the trial. Under the Best Value Notice, the Council will be required to provide weekly updates and data on the impact of the trial.
They will also be required to explain what other options they have looked at to improve staffing levels and ensure continuous improvement of their services. In a letter to the Council’s Chief Executive, Liz Watts, the Government’s Deputy Director of Local Government Stewardship raised concerns about the Council’s decision to continue the trial in defiance of government guidance, the lack of analysis on trial impacts, and potential implications on service delivery and productivity.
Ministers are requesting additional detail on the trial's impact, including individual employee productivity, the Council, and service provision. SCDC is expected to demonstrate how it is delivering its Best Value Duty by providing evidence of trial impacts, evaluating Best Value, working with an independent expert, and promptly responding to information requests.
The Notice will remain in place for 6 months to cover the trial's remainder, allowing for further analysis.
Anthony welcomed the letter and called on the Council to meet with all the letter’s expectations, emphasizing that this scrutiny is essential for transparent governance, saying: "I welcome the Department's Best Value Notice, which highlights the need for continuous improvement and transparency in SCDC's governance. This scrutiny is vital to meet residents' expectations and ensure accountable decision-making. I urge the Council to comply with all requests promptly, providing the necessary data and evidence for independent assessment. This will finally bring some truly independent scrutiny of their actions and provide the oversight residents expect."