The council is slipping back from progress between 1994 and 1998, according to an IDeA peer review report. The report said: 'From  until the present . . . progress has been uneven and fragile. There is a real risk of stagnation and even deterioration.'
Lambeth enjoys an 'artificial sense of satisfaction' because it compares its performance with its 'dire' past instead of national good practice, reviewers added.
There are weak links with the community - especially the ethnic minority community which makes up almost 40% of the population. A resident said the council's talk of partnership was a 'hollow phrase'. One group of partners said: 'Projects start and vanish and we don't know where they went.'
Despite new political and managerial leadership, there is 'an absence of strong, wider corporate leadership and management'. IDeA added: 'The council's behaviour was aptly likened by one interviewee to that of a puppy - bouncy, playful, but lacking in discipline.'
Financial strategies, including a low council tax policy, are unrealistic. There has not been enough top level attention to best value, with the result that progress has been slow. Too many competing targets leaves staff under pressure to succeed, but without the support they need.
Strengths include high expectations and goodwill towards the new leader and chief executive, plus a strong desire by managers and staff to improve.
Lambeth promptly announced it would invest£300,000 in equality. Chief executive Faith Boardman 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.'
Leader Tom Franklin (Lab) said: '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.'