Yorkshire entrepreneurs are owed around £70,000 after learning provider collapses into administration

Two Yorkshire entrepreneurs are owed around £70,000 after an independent learning provider collapsed into administration.

Toni Eastwood of Beyond2030 and Jenn Crowther of Yorkshire in Business have been left with a significant shortfall after carrying out work for Bradford-based Aspire-Igen Ltd, which had eight training centres. Administrators were appointed to Aspire-Igen after the company suffered from decreased cashflow with its financial problems escalating following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report which resulted in a reduction in the number of learners. The directors sought advice and subsequently appointed Begbies Traynor to help place the company into administration.

Ms Eastwood said she and Ms Crowther were part of a group of specialists in the region that were invited to devise plans for a project to be supported by ESF (European Social Fund) funding which would focus on issues such as gender stereotyping, the pay gap, women’s enterprise and women in leadership.

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She added: "We spent almost a year scoping the project, supporting research, contributing our expertise , all voluntarily. We then contributed to the writing of the bid for the funding from DWP/ESF, again voluntarily. The project was due to start September 2018 however it did not get the funding until the following September."

Jenn Crowther, the Chief Executive  of Yorkshire in Business (Photo supplied by Jen Crowther)Jenn Crowther, the Chief Executive  of Yorkshire in Business (Photo supplied by Jen Crowther)
Jenn Crowther, the Chief Executive of Yorkshire in Business (Photo supplied by Jen Crowther)

"Mine and Jenn’s organisations were then bought on board as partners, with Aspire-Igen as lead partner. Beyond2030 was delivering the research into the gender pay gap and gender stereotyping and the women in leadership strands of the project. Yorkshire in Business was delivering the women in enterprise strand. Aspire was due to deliver a women’s network, a young women’s leadership programme and a return to work programme. Because of delays in getting the contract we didn’t actually get the contracts until December 2019, so we were off to a late start and we were all still expected to get the same outcomes for the programme to be completed by September 2023. We then delivered the programme for 14 months without being paid. We should have been paid quarterly in arrears, this put a hideous strain on me personally and my business."

She said both women are facing financial strain due to Aspire-Igen's collapse into administration.

"We both feel this is an outrageous way for two female led local small businesses to be treated and want something to be done about this.

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"This has put me and my business into an extremely difficult and stressful situation, through no fault of our own. It is frankly despicable."

A spokesman said Aspire-Igen Ltd was placed into administration in June with Joanne Hammond and Gareth Rusling of Begbies Traynor appointed as joint administrators. It provided pre and post-16 education through GCSEs and study programmes for vulnerable young people.

A spokesman said: " As administrators, the role of Begbies Traynor is to investigate the reasons the business has failed and maximise asset realisations for the benefit of creditors. The firm is unable to comment on the ongoing provision of contracts the company was working on – these concerns should be addressed to the relevant authorities.“The administrators anticipate that there may be sufficient funds available to enable a dividend to be paid to unsecured creditors from the administration estate."

James Farrar, Chief Operating Officer, York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Aspire Igen contracted directly with Department for Work and Pensions to deliver the programme referenced utilising European Social Funds. Aspire IGEN then sub contracted with providers to deliver that contract. The LEP don’t have a role in the delivery or performance management of this programme.

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“This is obviously a difficult situation for these providers. We understand that the Department for Work and Pensions is seeking to manage the situation and identify any potential solutions. We will support this process as required.”