Public Sector

Published: January 14, 2021 | Updated: January 15, 2021

“We’re sorry” says Dorset Growth Hub after being overwhelmed with grant applications

Nick Gregory, Operations Director, Dorset Growth Hub, delivering his LinkedIn video message with subtitles.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A business organisation allocating more than half a million pounds worth of grants to small and medium sized enterprises in Dorset has apologised after being overwhelmed by applications.

In a video message on LinkedIn, Nick Gregory, Dorset Growth Hub’s Operations Director, said: “I’m very, very unhappy that I am sitting here apologising for having upset 750 people instead of making 148 people happy.”

The government announced in July 2020 that a share of £30m would be distributed to each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

It included a £10m Kick-starting Tourism Package for small businesses in the tourism sector and a further £20m of funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of Covid-19.

As a result, a total of just under £550,000 of grant funding was awarded to Dorset.

The funding was available to SME businesses in the form of grants, between £1,000 and £5,000.

The support was fully funded by the government from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and distributed through Dorset Growth Hub.

The grants allow eligible businesses to access specialist professional advice such as human resources, accountants, legal, financial and IT/digital.

It could also be used to buy minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue or diversify their business activity.

Administering of the grants began in September.

But in the LinkedIn video message, uploaded on the Dorset Growth Hub page on January 12, Nick Gregory admitted the take-up had taken his team by surprise.

He said: “Instead of making 148 people happy we made 750 people either upset, angry or disappointed.

“From our point of view it’s been a massive unfortunate scenario that we’ve upset more people than we’ve been able to help which is not how we wish to work as the growth hub.

“We’re here to try and help Dorset businesses grow and, of course, we’ve unfortunately made a lot of people unhappy.”

Nick said two extra people had been taken on to help with the applications and get the information needed.

He said: “Consequently we have run into delays because there weren’t enough people taken on.

“We’re a small team  – there’s only ten of us at the best of times to run the whole project – so the extra two people were under a lot of pressure.

“We brought in members of the other teams to try and help get it done but still the number of applications that came in, certainly towards the end of the period, the end of November, was so great that we weren’t able to deal with them all in a timely fashion.

“We are now still working through some of those applications.”

Nick said they expected to allocate 148 grants and had so far reached in excess of 120.

He added: “It’s unlikely, therefore, that your application – if you haven’t heard yet – is going to be successful but we are still processing all grants.

“If any more funding comes forward, and it’s conceivable that could happen, then all your grant applications are kept on file so that we might be able to help if we have further funding.”

Nick said the grants may have seemed like a lifeline to businesses “falling through the cracks” for either national or local government financial help in the current pandemic.

He said: “I’m very sorry if we haven’t been able to help and I’m very sorry if we haven’t been able to reply quickly enough due to having miscalculated the number of staff.

“We haven’t been here to upset people and I’m very, very unhappy that I am sitting here apologising for having upset 750 people instead of making 148 people happy.

“That’s the situation from the horse’s mouth so to speak.”