The drive is one of many in response to findings by the government's Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), which was invited by the council to give an 'independent health check' in November. The review said Lambeth needed clear and visible actions to promote race equality and meet the needs of customers with disabilities.
The new investment programme will kick in during the next financial year and is likely to include the appointment of an equalities and diversity manager. There will be more money for interpretation services for customers, and more efforts to involve black and other ethnic communities in tenants associations and town centre forums.
There will also be a study into how staff from a wider range of ethnic backgrounds can better progress up the council's career ladder. Senior managers will get mentor support on equality.
Chief executive Faith Boardman, who was appointed in September last year, said: 'Over 100 languages are spoken in the borough and it is not surprising that four out of five residents are telling us we should take a lead on race equality. This has to be a priority for Lambeth now, which is why we are announcing investment to help us deliver better services, more accessible and more appropriate services, for all the diverse communities of Lambeth.'
Said Tom Franklin: 'We knew the IDeA would be critical but we wanted to set a benchmark and understand and prioritise where the council needs to make improvements.
'I welcome the findings and the actions we are taking as a result. I will also welcome the review team back again in ten months to see how we have done, and back again to verify whether we have attained our goal of becoming a flagship council in 2004.
'In the coming year, we will be investing more money in addressing the key weaknesses identified by the IDEA team - including housing benefits - because this is the way to achieve sustainable improvements in services.
'We cannot promise to put right everything that is still wrong in Lambeth overnight. But we can promise to focus on continual improvements in basic services.'
Shortly after the IDeA review, Lambeth engaged consultants to review its housing benefit service and recommend options for improvement. Soon, Lambeth will decide whether its benefits and revenues contractor Capita will continue to run the service, if a joint working relationship is possible or whether the service should be brought back in house.
In the meantime, Lambeth is one of the first local authorities to invite a housing benefit task force from the department of social security to work on the council's improvement programme.
Investing in staff and better human resource management was another priority set by IDeA. Lambeth has now committed to achieving the quality award 'Investors in People' across the whole council by 2002.
The council's corporate management team is to be reorganised. There will be more focus on performance. The council's business unit system, which was making financial management difficult, is being reviewed and stronger financial structures and systems are being put in place. A contract director will be appointed to reform arrangements with contractors.
IDeA observed that Lambeth has a history of financial difficulties. Although the council has the fifth lowest council tax in the country, IDeA said that: 'In the light of the degree of deprivation and need in the borough this may not be a sustainable long term strategy.'
The IDeA reportcan be viewed here.