Wealden District Council
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Hybrid working

25 September 2023

Question:

Dear Councillor Partridge,

Like thousands of others I do not find it easy to pay £329 per month council tax which is an obscene amount and in my opinion represents poor service and value for money.

It has long been known that public service employees do very nicely with their salaries and pensions especially management and executives all duly paid for by council tax payers such as myself so I am somewhat annoyed to read and hear in the media about council employees working from home, away from home and even abroad or indeed on the beach instead of in the office at their desks!! There is now even talk about a 4 day week .

I would like to know what East Sussex/Wealden Council’s stance is regarding this matter. I would be interested to know just how many employees are working supposedly from home on a daily basis and whether or not Wealden Council are considering adopting a 4 day week.

It appears that you could be treating council tax payers with some contempt and taking the ‘mickey’ out of us resulting in what many of us view as a huge amount of money paid for certain employees to stay at home and at the same time time also save money on their expenditure.

Of course this is not meant to include the hard working operatives who get up every morning to go out and do their job.

Answer:

Dear Mr Raggett

Thank you for your note about working from home.

I cannot speak for East Sussex County Council.  Please contact your local county councillor, if you want to know what it is doing about this. You will appreciate that the majority of your council tax goes to ESCC and other authorities.  Only 9% of it comes to us.

I accept that it is a lot of money for everyone (including me) to find, but I also hear a lot from people asking for their roads to be repaired, elderly relations cared for and so on.  Public services have to be paid for somehow.

I have not been at the council for very long, but, from what I have seen, our employees fully earn their pay. The council is a “people” business. The employment market in the south east is very competitive and we have to offer benefit packages which are attractive.

Wealden District Council’s policy on working from home is as follows.

The majority of Wealden District Council employees (410) are working to a hybrid model, which allows them to work on average 60% of their working week from home. For a full time employee (37 hours) this would equate to three working days working from home and two days working in the office.

Approximately 20 employees are primarily office workers due to the nature of their role, and would not work from home more than once a week. We do not as a rule employ home workers, and this would be the exception rather than the norm, and would only be agreed as part of a formal flexible working request where there is clear evidence that this would not have a detrimental impact on service delivery.

We do not allow employees to work outside of the UK, and we require a workplace assessment to be completed for any work carried out at home, to ensure the staff member has a suitable workstation to work at and appropriate equipment to carry out the duties of their role.

As part of their role a number of staff working in services such as building control, planning, street scene and car parking, are working out in the community on a regular basis, and may be required to use mobile equipment and other devices whilst out and about to record information. This is to ensure that information is captured and recorded in a timely fashion.

Wealden District Council has no plans to adopt a four-day working week for our employees, as we have a flexible working policy in place which ensure that employees can balance their work and home commitments, whilst also ensuring that each service area is adequately resourced during working hours to deliver a high standard of customer service.

As a result of moving to a hybrid working model, the council has achieved annual savings of almost £66k as a result of reduced expenditure on utilities, printing, photocopying and catering.  Hybrid working has also had a positive impact on our carbon footprint as a result of reduced staff travel.

I hope this answers your questions.

Councillor James Partridge