I am writing as a concerned constituent about the drastic funding cuts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a non-departmental public body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
In 1983, 90% of Kew’s operational funding came from the UK Government as grant in aid. This has declined to below 40% as of this year. The outlook for 2015-16 is uncertain, but a further cut of £0.9M is expected. Kew’s revenue budget will be to £12.5M compared to £17.5M in 2010, a reduction of 35%. Kew, like all DEFRA bodies, has also been warned that further reductions of as much as 25% are possible. Such uncertainty is as damaging as the reduction itself.
Kew has drawn on available reserves to dangerously low levels and continues to raise independent funding from numerous sources but still forecasts a deficit this year even after cutting back its activities and shedding valuable posts at an unprecedented rate and level. The welcome announcement of the restoring of £1.5M funding, for this year only, announced by Nick Clegg in September has reduced the deficit but will not save a single job, as Kew still has to cut costs in anticipation of the reduced budget for the year ahead.
Independent reviews of this world-renowned institution have praised the quality and value of its scientific work and have recommended that public funding is maintained at 2010 levels or increased. Despite this, the continued cuts to funding mean that in addition to over 60 posts lost since 2013, a further 65 posts are now at immediate risk, totalling a sixth of the workforce. Kew’s work underpins conservation initiatives all over the world. This work is threatened now as Kew expects these further cuts.
If you are not prevented by parliamentary convention, please sign early day motion 117 (http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/117) to immediately reverse the cuts, halt redundancies and to ensure that the UK Government fulfils its commitments under the 1983 National Heritage Act to ensure that Kew is adequately resourced to fulfil its statutory obligations: research; providing advice and education; plant-related services including quarantine; caring for world-renowned scientific collections as national reference collections available for study; and as a resource for the public to gain knowledge and enjoy.
Restoration of Kew’s operational budget is urgently needed to retain Kew’s unique and rare staff expertise and prevent further cuts to scientific work and the maintenance of Kew’s World Heritage site estate. Please also support initiatives calling for an immediate full public debate that looks to review Kew’s status and funding with a view to clarifying the proportion and amount of Kew’s funding over the long-term and identifying which functions should be state-funded.