One of Norfolk's biggest councils is considering introducing a four-day week for staff which would see them significantly reduce their hours but remain on the same pay.

Labour-controlled Norwich City Council has agreed to look into the feasibility of the scheme, which it believes could improve staff wellbeing.

But critics have attacked the idea, saying it represents bad value for taxpayers - who would receive no reduction in their council tax - and would reduce the level of service the authority provides.

Several companies across the UK have been trialling four-day weeks - which see workers receive the same pay but work for one day fewer each week - including a fish and chip shop in Wells-next-the-Sea.

Those who support the schemes claim they have a positive impact on productivity and some of the firms have opted to make the arrangement permanent.

But the concept has proved far more controversial when introduced in the public sector.

The only council to implement the measure so far - South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) - is facing mounting criticism over the value for taxpayers' money offered by the arrangement.

Norwich Evening News: Josh Worley, Green councillor for Thorpe HamletJosh Worley, Green councillor for Thorpe Hamlet (Image: Newsquest)

Norwich City Council agreed to consider bringing in a four-day week for staff after a motion by Green councillor Joshua Worley calling for it was passed without debate at a meeting on Tuesday.

A Labour amendment added that any change should be “based on evidence” and the council is now examining how such a scheme could work.

The motion said: “The council resolves to explore the benefits of a reduced working week at full pay, if based on evidence that this would ensure the performance and value of residents’ services were improved, and initiate discussions within the council and with partners, including trade unions, about the potential of this future model.”

Mr Worley said: “Sticking with the status quo is not a good enough reason to do anything anymore, and it is quite clear that the 9-5, Monday to Friday working week simply does not work in the modern age.

“Just as Covid taught us that remote working is in fact a suitable, flexible and positive working arrangement for millions of people across a host of industries, organisations which have undertaken four-day working weeks across a wide range of sectors and across the globe have learnt that allowing their staff to work fewer hours for the same pay in fact increases morale, staff satisfaction and productivity. 

“It is time that Norwich City Council proves itself as a forward-thinking organisation by putting the staff who run our Fine City first, and taking steps to improve their working conditions for good.” 

Norwich Evening News: David Simister-ThomasDavid Simister-Thomas (Image: Norwich Conservatives)

But David Thomas, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, said voters would question why they were paying so much council tax.

“Residents in South Cambridgeshire are saying they are not seeing improvements in services," he said. "And they are asking why they are still paying the same of amount of council tax.”

He also raised concerns about which council workers would and would not be included in the Norwich scheme.

“I find it hard to say to one group that they can have four days and other groups cannot,” he added.Norwich Evening News: Labour MP Clive LewisLabour MP Clive Lewis

However, the proposals have been welcomed by Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, who described them as "an absolute no-brainer". 

“Workers are happier and more productive and businesses find it much easier to recruit and retain staff," he added. 

“I hope that a four-day working week becomes the norm.”

The Greens recently raised the issue at Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council, when member Catherine Rowett questioned if more local authorities should take part in four-day week trials.

But it got shorter shrift than at City Hall.

Jane James, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “No, I don’t. We have a flexible hybrid ‘smarter working programme’ in place and that involves grown-ups in the room working out how they want to work.  

“It’s about outcomes for our residents, not clicking in and clicking out and four-day weeks and that kind of thing.”



The Liberal Democrat-led SCDC’s trial has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months, with the government intervening and ordering the trial to come to a halt in July, with minister Lee Rowley questioning the “value for money” for taxpayers.

This also came after it was discovered that the council’s chief executive, Liz Watts, was writing about four-day weeks for her PhD but had not declared the potential conflict of interest.

Despite this, the council decided to ignore the government and is continuing its trial for another 12 months, claiming the shorter week improved wellbeing and productivity.

Controversy over the scheme deepened this week when the opposition Conservative group at SCDC accused council officials of having “artificially improved” the results of a written report on the issue.

The Tory group claimed some negative quotes from staff - including a manager saying they "did all the unfinished work on my day off so that my team could have time off" - were removed from the report. 

The council said the quote did not include wider context of what was said by the manager, including that they had learnt to distribute work more responsibly.

It also said clarifications were made to make "confusing language clearer".



There is growing pressure from unions and employees for the introduction of four-day weeks in the public sector, including in the NHS.

Right-wing pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance - which is one of those warning against the idea - has described the South Cambs scheme as "the canary in the coalmine".

It warns that if the change was rolled out across the public sector it would cost taxpayers around £30bn a year in lost working time alone, equivalent to a 5p rise in the basic rate of income tax.

The group calculates the change would need a 14.4pc rise in productivity to offset the lost hours. 

However, proponents say the measure provides a better work-life balance, increased productivity and reduced staff turnover.

The measure is not unique to the UK. Iceland trialled the scheme with 2,500 government employees between 2015 and 2019 and analysts claimed productivity stayed the same or improved when working hours were reduced.