Kew Gardens funding blow

Government response to Kew Garden funding report is a blow

Ministers’ refusal to put the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on a long-term sustainable financial footing means David Cameron’s claim to be the ‘greenest government ever’ is proving to be nothing but hot air, Prospect has said.

The union’s comments follow the publication of the government’s response to a Common’s select committee report on the future funding of the world-famous Unesco World Heritage site.

In a letter published in Tuesday’s Evening Standard paper, Prospect negotiations officer Julie Flanagan, who represents Kew scientists, wrote:

Government funding cuts have already damaged the ability of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to help conserve plants, fungi and our environment.

Today’s announcement that the government is not willing to put Kew on a long-term sustainable financial footing has come as a real blow to the staff and unions trying to maintain the specialist expertise at the world-renowned site.

Kew has already lost more than 350 years of accumulated plant science experience, which is not easily built up or replaced, and reduces Kew’s ability to fulfil its statutory obligations.

The government’s short-sighted approach to the institution's funding is hypocritical given that its Heritage Act requires Kew to carry out its plant and fungal conservation work. Kew does this work cheaply and does it cheaper and cheaper every year.

While measures to enable Kew to have more financial flexibility to manage its funding are welcome, food security, drug development and work to prepare for climate change will be put at genuine risk if funding is not restored to 2009-10 levels.

Kew’s conservation work helps to conserve wild plant species in their natural environment and safeguards the Millennium Seed Bank to ensure these useful plant species are not lost to us forever - a concrete step towards strengthening global food security for our future.

Kew is a vital scientific and genetic resource. Yet given the lack of any tangible suggestions for its future, as evidenced by today’s report, you may be forgiven for thinking that the government just sees it as ‘a pretty garden’.

Life depends on plants. The prime minister’s claim to be the ‘greenest government ever’ is proving to be nothing but hot air.