Tower Hamlets: a council with 'ambitious priorities, strong financial management, and a skilled workforce'

  • Peer Review praises council for ‘comprehensive understanding of the needs of its residents’
  • Council is already well underway in delivering Action Plan improvements

Tower Hamlets Council has been praised as ‘an organisation which has a comprehensive understanding of the needs of residents and communities.’

That is the view of an expert team of independent reviewers who were invited to inspect the council as part of an Local Government Association Corporate Peer Challenge.

A team of councillors and senior leaders visited the council for a week in September to assess how the organisation operates and recommend areas for improvement.

Its report recognised that the council ‘is still adjusting to changes and challenges’ after ‘going through a period of significant change in the last eighteen months, with a new Mayor and, a new Chief Executive, as well as a move to new council offices.’

Despite these changes, the Peer Review found the council was delivering at speed with the help of ‘highly skilled, dedicated people who are evidently committed to delivering the best outcomes for the borough’s residents.’

It went onto say that: ‘Both members and officers should be commended for the delivery against the election promises to date and in particular the speed of the implementation of universal free school meals for all children up to age 16, and the implementation of the Educational Maintenance Allowance for sixth form and college students.

Lutfur Rahman, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“This Peer Review shows that we are one of the most ambitious councils in the country and we are on the right track in transforming the council to be even better.

“Change is never easy, but it is necessary to deliver the best outcomes for our residents.  This report shows we are making significant progress while also delivering for the people of Tower Hamlets. I am proud that they recognised our industry leading schemes such as free school meals for all primary and secondary school children, and grants for college and universities.

“There is more to come, and our residents can be confident that we will continue to improve as a council and a borough.”

Good record of financial management

The Peer Review also praised the council as having ‘a good record of financial management, with strong foundations in place to maintain the future financial sustainability of the organisation.’

In recent months, the council has improved its financial management further by fixing historic issues with its accounts. Now accounts for 16/17, 17/18, 18/19 and 19/20 have all been signed off by independent auditors, with the 20/21 and 21/22 scheduled to go to Audit Committee for sign off in January.

In October, the council’s Annual Governance Statement was published on the council’s website after being approved by Audit Committee.

Action Plan of improvement

The 18 core recommendations in the Peer Review report are the subject of a detailed action plan which the council has published alongside the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge Report on the council’s website.

It identifies all the core recommendations and sets against them key actions that help to address the recommendations. It also outlines actions that the Council has already undertaken relevant to the recommendations or that resolve them altogether.

Steve Halsey, Chief Executive, said:

“The findings contain many positive reflections of the council and our workforce. It is affirming to see that the areas for improvement are issues that our new management team had identified prior to the review, and for that reason, we have a head start in tackling them.

“It was important that we published our Action Plan alongside the Peer Review Report. I am delighted that not only are many of the actions in train, but some, like the approval of historic accounts by independent auditors, have already been delivered.

“We were fortunate to have a highly skilled and experienced Peer Review team. On behalf of everyone at Tower Hamlets Council I want to thank them for taking the time to visit us, listen and observe and share their insights with us at the start of our transformation and improvement journey.”

You can read the full report, the council’s Action Plan and our Supporting Statement by visiting Peer Review - Feedback report (

Posted on Friday 15th December 2023