Lewisham was awarded 4 stars today by the Audit Commission in its Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA).
The Audit Commission says in its summary of Lewisham:
"Lewisham Council is improving well. Lewisham’s performance is improving in priority areas such as tackling crime and the environment with reductions in robberies and burglaries and improved street cleanliness. Improvement is maintained in services for adult social care and children and young people, especially for vulnerable young people. Overall the rate of improvement on performance indicators is below the national average and a below-average proportion of indicators is in the top quartile. Local survey results show improvements in satisfaction over the last year. The Council operates at the highest level of the equality standards and provides good value for money. The Council has good capacity to achieve continuous improvements in services through its clear planning processes and robust performance management systems. Partnership working continues to be strong and the jointly-run Downham centre has improved access to health, library and leisure facilities. The Council has robust plans to improve customer access to its services. However, challenges remain in further improving outcomes to above national averages and in meeting national targets such as the decent homes standard and recycling rates."
So lots of good stuff there, and credit to the staff who have brought about the improvements highlighted above.
However there is an increasing body of opinion that states that 'target-culture' actually corrodes public services and makes them more distant from the people they are supposed to serve. Simon Caulkin has written on this subject on a number of occasions in his management column in the Observer - here are a few:
Targets can seriously damage your health
Police bureaucracy that needs to be arrested
Of particular interest for Lewisham given the Mayor's previous ambitions to getting massive 'efficiency savings' by restricting access to adult social care is a general thought as to how bureaucracy and targets can hamper the effective delivery of the right social care to the right people:
We can still defuse the ticking care timebomb
And on a more recent and very worrying theme, we have Baby P
Blame bureaucrats and systems for Baby P's fate
In Camden its 4* rating was clearly viewed with some sceptism by the local paper, teh Camden New Journal
Top marks all round for the Town Hall but is it simply the best?
This article in the Camden New Journal starts :
"IT might not mean much to someone stranded on the 15,000-long waiting list for a council home. Not much either to parents struggling to find a secondary school for children in the south of the borough....But, stop rubbing your eyes, when it comes to the local authority league tables Camden, it was revealed on Tuesday, is ahead of all the rest. Top of the heap. A-number one." [Camden New Journal,08 May 2008]
And in some respects I am sure those concerns resonate with many in Lewisham.
I think the point being that from two angles there is evidence that the targets culture is harming delivery of services as viewed by Simon Caulkin, and further that it is harming the relationship between local government and the people we serve.