Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg told the State of Nature Conference today that he has secured £1.5m of government funding for Kew Gardens and its site in West Sussex until April 2015. Both sites deliver globally important science and conservation.
Prospect, PCS and GMB, who spearheaded the campaign, welcomed the news but agreed with Kew’s director, Richard Deverell, that although this funding will go some way in helping Kew move to a sustainable future, it will not fully resolve the original £5m gap in its budget for 2014-15.
Prospect’s parliamentary officer Parmjit Dhanda said: “We are pleased at this temporary reprieve which shows the importance of the widely backed campaign. Of course, increased funding and longer-term security beyond the election would have been even better. But Nick Clegg’s statement is a bit like bedding plants – a temporary show.”
Prospect pointed out that Kew has had to use up most of its reserves to survive four preceding years of government cuts. They believe Kew’s funding should be restored to 2009-10 levels – in line with the recommendation from the last independent review of Kew.
Kew has already had to lay off more than 50 staff who have left on a voluntary basis and major cuts in the number of science staff are still on the table. Many decades of skill and experience have been lost and more staff are expected to go.
Dhanda said: “Kew needs long-term certainty about its funding to be able to plan and manage its limited resources efficiently and effectively. Kew unions are calling for an independent review to examine this and move to a funding cycle that is longer than three months.”
The unions delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Downing Street in June. It called on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to “urgently reverse existing, proposed and further cuts to Kew’s annual operating grant in aid”.
In 1983, 90 per cent of Kew’s funding came from the UK government as grant in aid. This had dropped to below 40 per cent in 2014. Funding was reduced by £0.9m in 2009-10, £1m in 2010-11, and by an extra £0.5m year-on-year thereafter.
In March 2014 Kew was told to expect further cuts of at least another £1.5m before the end of 2016.
It is not clear whether today's announcement simply delays the cuts until 2015-16 or by how much.