PROJECTS credited with supporting more than 1,700 Dorset businesses and creating 1,220 jobs are facing an uncertain future when European Union funding ends this summer.

Business support organisation YTKO says it has returned £10.70 to the Dorset economy for every pound spent on its initiatives.

It says its Outset support service for start-up businesses has helped 1,103 Dorset entrepreneurs, almost half of whom were previously out of work.

Its GetSet For Growth service has helped 1,714 businesses grow in its six-and-a-half years, creating 1,220 jobs and generating estimated sales of £164.5million.

YTKO’s current contract expires in June, before the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund replaces the current EU funds later this year.

But the Shared Prosperity Fund will begin with £400m to spend across the UK, compared with the EU’s £1.5billion a year. It will not match the EU figure until 2024-25.

Lee Hughes, YTKO’s deputy chief executive, said the organisation was applying for funding from smaller schemes in the hope of continuing its service without a break.

“I think there will inevitably be a bit of a gap but we need to do everything we can to avoid that gap so we don’t lose momentum at what will be a critical time in the UK economy, Dorset included, in business start-up sustainability and growth,” he said.

He said a similar gap in YTKO’s provision in Swindon had hit the local economy there.

“A six-month delay in our service cost the Swindon economy £2million because of not having our service there and the cost associated with then having to train people, recruit them and get them up to full capacity,” he said.

He added: “That’s the business case we’re taking to as many people as we can, saying ‘It’s not us asking for money. By investing in services like ours, you’ll be saving the public purse by creating wealth and economic impact where otherwise it might not be created'.

“For every £1 invested, we can evidence that we save the public purse £10.70. Give us a pound, we’ll give you £10 back. When you’re looking at an economic argument you can’t get a stronger one than that.”

YTKO says its services differ from previous support because they are focused on “going where the clients are”. The Dorset operation is based at Darracott Road, Boscombe, and mentor Sarah Veakins goes out into the community to meet businesses that need advice and support.

Mr Hughes said: “We deliberately went for a deprived ward. People walk past us every day, dropping their kids off to school, going to the shops, going to the job centre and seeing us in that community. That’s the biggest difference and it’s simple but it makes such a big difference in impact.”

As well as traditional start-ups, there has been a rise in “dark kitchens”, digital tech, creative and cultural businesses and the green economy.