Lewisham Council: The Verdict

Yesterday's debate about Brockley's Chattering Classes went in all kinds of unexpected directions - we're still trying to decide whether the resulting argument supported or undermined our original theory about the nature of Brockley's chatter.

One of the issues raised was whether the Council delivers a good and cost effective service. Well, according to the Audit Commission, whose job it is to assess these things, Lewisham fares pretty well. In the last report, dated October 2007, it scores 4 overall, which means that it is "well above minimum requirements – performing strongly." Now admittedly, this is in comparison with other Councils, which means that it may not be the strongest benchmark to set it against, but the key findings of the report are:

"The Council is performing strongly. It is working for and delivering real improvements for Lewisham. It is with its partners extremely ambitious in creating and seizing opportunities to improve life chances for its young people and regenerate its diverse area, many parts of which are deprived but well-placed to develop. Its ambition to make Lewisham the most liveable and sustainable community in the most successful city in Europe is based on an exceptionally good understanding of its communities and their potential. Over the last five years the Council has prioritised clearly and delivered successfully improvements that are central to its vision, particularly the attainment of young people and the condition of streets and open spaces. Better transport links to London's commercial centres are fostering well-targeted regeneration. Strong partnerships deliver more than the sum of their parts including some world-class integrated facilities for local people. Some lower-priority services currently perform only adequately, but improvements are mostly in hand.

"The Council has achieved well against its key priorities over the last five years including important and continuing gains in school attendance, pupil attainment and the prospects of young people leaving care, in better-maintained and outstandingly clean streets and parks, measurably reduced deprivation overall and better energy use. Regeneration is building on the unique characters of communities, making good use of new transport links which have been achieved through active lobbying and starting to exploit the possibilities of the London Olympics. Remaining challenges, on which the Council is strongly focused, include securing an ambitious Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to support its plans for education development, improving social housing through a complex stock transfer, and major regeneration proposals for its town centres and Thames frontage. These are things of real significance in improving the lives and life chances of local people.

"There are a few weaknesses in areas that are less central to the Mayor and Council's goal of a step-change in the Borough's fortunes. Early slowness in determining options for the housing stock has made the Council behind on Decent Homes Standards (DHS). Complaints in housing are not followed through well and tenants are dissatisfied and unsettled. Homelessness is still problematic. Relationships with voluntary organisations need more development. Older people have been a lower priority and although strategy is progressing, services to support healthy lifestyles for people over 50 are not well coordinated."

Full report here