The IDeA (Improvement and Development Agency) team, which was invited and welcomed by Lambeth, comprised a number of senior figures from local government across the country, led by Bob Kerslake, the chief executive of Sheffield City Council. They conducted an intense study of Lambeth, speaking to residents, community groups, schools, officers, the local media and councillors. Their preliminary findings were given to senior councillors, officers and members of the public (or invited members of the public or reps from Citizens Panel. There will also external partners eg chair of LVAC) on December 1. A full written report will be completed in January.
Bob Kerslake said: 'There is no doubt that Lambeth has improved substantially from a dire position. It was faced with a Herculean task and has achieved much.'
He also praised the dedication of 'capable and energetic' members and the 'strong desire to improve from managers and staff'. Mr Kerslake said the IDeA team had been met with openness and honesty. There were extremely strong 'individual successes' such as the council's web-site and intranet and the strides made in re-cycling.
'However, there is a tendency to compare with the past, when things were very bad, rather than with the best, so the level of progress can be over-stated,' said Mr Kerslake.
The team called for improvements on identifying corporate targets, management systems and areas of public concern such as housing benefits and children's services. More investment in staff is required, and a people-led approach to regenerating local communities as well as clear and visible actions on promoting race equality.
I&DeA Team member Maria Rimmer, the leader of St Helens Council, said: 'This is not a totally negative view of Lambeth. There are many items here that I will be taking back to my authority as examples of good practice.'
She added that the review team had been met with warmth from the community where there is a genuine desire to work with Lambeth to achieve improvements. Lambeth will need to work hard to overcome a serious credibility gap with local people as it had a history of 'over promising and under delivering'.
Cllr Tom Franklin, Lambeth's leader, said: 'This is the first full scale health check we have had into Lambeth since the new administration and we welcome the thoroughness and professionalism of the team. There is a lot of food for thought and we will be considering how we can implement the messages we have received into our future development plans. The openness with which we have welcomed the review - an element noted by the assessors - is fundamental both to our progress to date and our progress in the future.'
The I&DeA presentation will be shared with all staff at Lambeth through the council's intranet site. Faith Boardman, Lambeth's chief executive, wrote to all staff members through e-mail and shared the review team's initial findings to that lessons can begin to be learnt from the process.