Have your say: Do you support a four-day working week?

A council in England has come under fire after it has moved bin collections from five days to four days a week

Woman in home office during Covid-19 lockdown
Flexible working has become more common in the UK in recent years. (Getty Images)

A council's controversial move to a four-day working week means food waste could be left rotting in bins for more than two weeks, it has been claimed.

From the middle of this month, South Cambridgeshire Council will no longer collect rubbish five days a week under a new trial, as its staff move to a four-day week.

The move will affect the bin collections of about 104,000 residents from 18 September.

It comes as Scotland's first minister, Humza Yousaf, is expected to announce plans on Tuesday for Scottish civil servants to begin a four-day working week pilot scheme later this year.

Rubbish collection uk waste sorted & segregated into recycling paper blue sack glass red bin green food caddy brown wheelie bin garden black landfill
A council's bin collections will be disrupted as its staff adopt a four-day working week. (File photo: Alamy)

It is understood the first trials will take place at public sector agencies that are not closely linked to ministerial departments, The Guardian reported.

South Cambridgeshire Council, currently in its own four-day week trial, is scrapping Monday collections, claiming they cause confusion with changes whenever there is a bank holiday.

- Four-day week could lead to happier work environment, says management expert (The Scotsman, 2 mins)

Under the new timetable, some households who previously had their rubbish collected at the start of the week will have to wait more than two weeks for waste - including food - to be collected as the changes settle in.

The council, run by the Liberal Democrats, is the first in the UK to trial giving staff a three-day weekend, but critics say it is shortchanging ratepayers.

Councillor Heather Williams, the leader of the Conservative opposition at the council, told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s treating the residents with disdain just assuming they’ll put up with whatever is thrown at them. I don’t think it’s giving the taxpayer value for money. You want five days worth of work, not four.

“They haven’t consulted with the residents. I think it’s a complete abuse of position to do something like this.”

Richard Williams, a Tory councillor for Whittlesford, told the newspaper: “Frankly, people are outraged at the fact that the council is doing this at the expense of taxpayers.

Read more: Scotland praised for 'leading charge' as SNP 'to bring in four-day work week' (The National, 3 mins)

“It is going to cause confusion. It’s going to risk people putting things in a non-recycling bin because they’re not going to be able to put things in the recycling bin for the best part of a month.”

But Henry Batchelor, lead cabinet member for environmental services at the council, said: “We recognise that as the new routes are introduced there will be a temporary period of a couple of weeks as residents get used to new collection days in the new timetable.

"This includes disruption for a very small number of residents whose recycling bin collections will be out of sync.

Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, delivers a speech on planning reforms at Kings Place in King's Cross, north London. Mr Gove is announcing plans to prioritise house building in inner city areas. Picture date: Monday July 24, 2023. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Minister for levelling up, Michael Gove, is against the idea of council staff working a four-day week. (PA)

“However, once bedded in, we are expecting this to be a far simpler timetable for people as there won’t be a change each time there is a bank holiday Monday.”

In July, levelling up minister Michael Gove said council staff should be working five days a week and not four, as the government called on South Cambridgeshire Council to end its trial, which it planned to run until April 2024.

"I believe very strongly... that when taxpayers are paying for services, they need to have people working a full five-day week," said Gove.

“It seems to me that for every penny that is paid in council tax, we deserve, all of us, to see those working in local government working what is a full working week for those who are council taxpayers as well.”