Barnsley Council and its local partners were beginning the process of updating the economic strategy for the borough – with a focus on the inclusive economy – when the Coronavirus crisis began in early 2020.
The council has developed a flexible approach to maintain the development of the borough’s long-term plans and ambitions, whilst also addressing immediate economic priorities.
A number of factors have supported this flexible and responsive approach: the quality of existing economic plans and messages; partnership and governance approaches which already involved the borough’s anchor institutions; high-quality local data and analysis; effective community engagement; and collaborative work at a city region level.
In the short-term, the council moved quickly to develop an Economic Renewal Action Plan working with partner organisations on its Business and Economy Recovery Group, such as DWP, NHS, Barnsley College and the Chamber of Commerce. The aim of the 18-month plan is to reiterate the borough’s pre-existing economic issues, assess the impact of the pandemic, and outline a co-ordinated programme of immediately deliverable support for people, businesses and places. Existing local data and analysis has been key to quickly observing trends and pinpointing action.
The plan incorporates a £2m prioritised council capital investment programme – including employability and e-commerce support – alongside wider interventions such employment support for young people, to capital investment in town centre and decarbonisation projects. The plan mirrors the Sheffield City Region Renewal Action Plan also allowing the council to directly align with activities and funding planned at a city region scale.
In parallel to the reactive strategy, Barnsley Council and partners have also maintained focus on shaping the long-term socio-economic wellbeing of the borough beyond the pandemic. The vision is established by Barnsley 2030 – a partnership commitment to: improving health; inclusive growth; strengthening lifelong learning; and maximising environmental sustainability.