Emails have surfaced indicating that an independent study that praised a four-day working week was subject to editing by the very council it examined, according to the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA).
Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy was selected to impartially review data from an initial three-month trial of the Lib Dem-run South Cambridgeshire District Council’s new four-day working schedule.
The council said the institute was “asked to independently review” the data to “ensure it was analysed without any risk of bias.”
However, the lobby group the TPA claims that behind the scenes, academics allowed the council to edit their report.
The Bennett Institute said that this was a “normal process of discussion and minor changes.”
A four-day week, whereby employees would reduce their hours worked by 20 percent for the same pay, is currently being trialled for 450 staff in the council.
In May, the Council announced that the trial had been extended by 12 months. This, it said, was after it “independently reviewed data showed the initial pilot was a success.”
“At a time of increased public sector spending pressures, the four-day week aims to allow the Council to continue to deliver excellent services to residents and businesses, whilst improving consistency and reducing cost,” wrote the council.
From the middle of this month, South Cambridgeshire Council will no longer collect rubbish five days a week under the trial.
‘We’ll Work Towards a Version That Works For You!’
Email correspondence between the university and council has been obtained by the TPA under the Freedom of Information Act, which claims this shows that the South Cambridgeshire District Council was allowed to edit the independent report into the local authority’s four-day working week trial.
In one message sent on April 13, a month before the report was published, an unidentified council official complained that: “At first glance, there may be a bit too much detail (given that the report is going to be published and there will be a lot of people who are keen to rip the 4DW [four-day week] apart).
“Is it OK if I track proposed changes and send them over to you and you say whether you’re OK with them?”
A few minutes later, a Cambridge Bennett Institute researcher replied, “Yes sure–just use track changes and then we’ll work towards a version that works for you!”
On May 1, two weeks before publication, a researcher emailed a quote endorsing the trial that would be used in a council press release.
“What do you think? Happy to tweak it if needed,” the academic said.
‘Taxpayers Can Smell a Rat’
Elliot Keck, head of campaigns at the TPA told The Epoch Times by email that “taxpayers can smell a rat from a mile away.”
“This so-called independent report now looks like the sham that many expected it might be.
“Local bosses should throw up their hands, scrap the experiment and get back to a full-time council.”
The TPA has an ongoing campaign asking all council leaders to sign a pledge ruling out implementing a four-day working week in their town hall.
It calculated that revealed that a four-day week would cost £30 billion per year in lost working time if introduced across the public sector. The group also said there is “no credible evidence that productivity could increase by 25 per cent.”
A spokesperson for the Bennett Institute for Public Policy disputed the claims to the Epoch Times.
“The Bennett Institute’s evaluation of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s metrics during the pilot period was independent. It was not commissioned by SCDC. There was a normal process of discussion and minor changes to the draft report and press release, correctly described in the email correspondence as “tweaks.” The Institute has not taken any stance on the pilot scheme.”
A spokesperson for South Cambridgeshire District Council told The Epoch Times by email: “The Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge independently reviewed the Council’s data from the trial, to ensure it was analysed without any risk of bias. This is a trial, but we have already seen strong independently assessed evidence which showed that performance was maintained, and in some cases improved, in the first three months.”