top of page

Economic Renewal Action Plan Programme


The Context

In early 2021, the UK was emerging from the devastating second wave of COVID-19, with lockdown restrictions in place and many businesses badly impacted. 10% of eligible employees were on furlough at the end of 2020, and around 1,350 redundancies had been announced in the Borough.  Future forecasts were of high unemployment, especially for young people and those in sectors such as retail where shifts to online shopping had accelerated. The need for digital skills had intensified, while other issues such as mental health and wellbeing, the climate crisis, diversity and equalities also came to the fore.   


Businesses, people and places faced an unprecedented cocktail of impacts. The need to rebound or adapt was widespread, with the challenges often greatest for those facing disadvantage.


Barnsley 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. 


The plan incorporated 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 Requirement

Human Engine were asked to support Barnsley by providing programme management capacity and expertise for their ERAP programme. 


The Programme

Human Engine established the Programme Management Office (PMO) function, overseeing 8 projects delivered by a mix of internal teams and external partners. Joining the programme following initiation, we applied our best practice programme management framework to find the right balance of good programme governance with the speed and agility to get things done with minimal bureaucracy.  


Leading the PMO, we supported the client’s Programme Leader to make effective decisions by providing visibility of programme milestones, outputs, risks and issues.  This was about more than routine reporting or escalation – we provided pragmatic advice to help make decisions effectively, mitigate risks proactively and resolve issues quickly.


We co-produced definitions of outputs and benefits across the programme and built a comprehensive data capture process that ensured each project reported against the programme’s ‘standard minimum-required definitions’ but we also asked individual projects to develop local ‘stretch-definitions’ of success that went above and beyond the basic requirements.  This allowed us to capture and learn from the positive lessons of over-delivery in the highest performing areas.


We worked to a principle of minimum viable documentation, using a Balanced Scorecard which to drive the agenda at the Programme Management Boards. We also established a robust monthly cyclical reporting process and have built around a focus on Risks; Milestones; Finances and Outputs.


We established a strong working relationship with the client, which included coaching and mentoring a small team of the council’s graduate trainees and project officers to develop their skills and knowledge of programme and project management techniques.  

The Outcomes

Through collaboration between the council, local delivery partners and the Human Engine team, the programme achieved the following outcomes:

  • Jobs Created - 73

  • Jobs Safeguarded - 153 

  • Businesses Created - 10 

  • Businesses engaged and supported through the programme: 538

  • Employees directly supported with training or management advice: 623

Client Feedback

“[Human Engine] have been a breath of fresh air– they haven’t micro-managed and have been flexible in a way that has allowed for creativity and new ideas to come forward.”


“Having [Human Engine] in place is a major asset and has been instrumental in the shift from mobilisation to delivery.  It is helping keep people organised and on track; and through tracking and documentation is providing meaningful intelligence to the ERAP Steering Group on risks, milestones, spend and outputs to inform decision making.”


“The programme management has been highly praised and has been pivotal to keeping delivery on track.  This, combined with the robust governance in place and excellent work by project managers, is essential for a programme of this kind, and needs to be in place from the outset.  Lessons are being learnt from the successful approach and rolled out.”

About Us

Human Engine is a Financial Times top-ranked management consultancy with specialisms in strategy, change, digital, commercial and projects.  

It was founded in 2018 with a belief that the public sector deserves better than it gets from traditional consulting firms – more human, more personal and more knowledgeable of the reality of delivering modern public services.

We have worked with dozens of public sector organisations to help transform their strategies, operations and cultures to be more agile, commercial and entrepreneurial in order to achieve financial sustainability and improved outcomes for customers and communities. 

Our mission is to help individuals and organisations to do the best work of their lives.  We do this by blending first-hand experience of the problems we help our clients solve with award-winning consulting expertise and an approach based on trust, collaboration and partnership. 

bottom of page