An incredibly powerful and passionate meeting saw speakers and attendees united in agreement that if the Government does not commit to a clear funding plan then the vital work conducted by Kew will be lost forever.
Last night (Wednesday) people packed out Avenue Hall, in Kew, to hear rallying speeches from a panel made up of union heads, senior politicians and scientists.
The meeting took place under the banner Stop Cuts At Kew and in a rare move for such an event every single person who spoke was of the same mind as to what threat Kew is facing.
This year saw the world-famous UNESCO Heritage site handed a reprieve over the loss of its government grant, as deputy prime minister Nick Clegg handed it £1.5million.
However, while campaigners welcomed this, they also explained how it did nothing more than plaster over the cracks.
Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith was one speaker and said: “Everyone here tonight gets how extraordinary Kew is. It’s a national treasure - but more than that.
“As the world becomes a more unstable place then the work of its Millenium Seed Bank especially will be life saving.
“The proposed cuts are mad, mad for so many different reasons, and impossible to reconcile with the idea of a sustainable future for Kew.
“£1.5million has done nothing but buy us time, time to organise and plan a response, breathing space but no more than that.”
The meeting was organised by the PCS union - which represents the IT workers of Kew - along with two other unions; Prospect (which represents scientists) and GMB (which represents the horticulturalists).
Leslie Manasseh, deputy general secretary of Prospect and president of the TUC, told the audience he was ‘angry and depressed in equal measures’ over the situation.
He added: “I am appalled at the willingness of government to see Kew slide and decline.
“Cuts since 2010 have resulted in a funding shortfall of £5million and this cannot be closed simply by efficiency savings.
“A total of 65 posts have been lost already and 120 more are under threat next year.
“This will result in a massive impact on Kew’s work into climate change reversal, medicine research, heritage preservation, bio security, habitat protection, vital, vital work.
“£5m is not a massive amount of money to government, MPs alone last year claimed £103m in expenses while also there is a daily cost of around £2,000 to hire consultants because the people with vital skills have been lost.
“Cutting Kew’s budget is a political choice and the result is somewhere between a scandal and a tragedy.”
Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell was also present as he is not only a ‘Friend’ of Kew but also sits on various parliamentary committees which oversee the future of sites like it.
He outlined the four key areas the campaign he proposed to launch that very evening would take.
Rather than quote him - watch this video and if you care about the future of Kew then follow the advice he is giving on where to start.
The meeting closed with questions and opinions from the audience and Getwestlondon has assembled some of the best comments below:
“Kew should not be about ice rinks and pop concerts. There is too much commercialisation already.”
‘Where are Kew’s trustees? Where is the director of the gardens Richard Deverell? We have had only silence from the gardens themselves - are they afraid to criticise their paymasters?
“We have heard that the director told staff that the current restructure would happen irrespective of the budget cuts - what sort of agenda and example are they trying to set?”
“The Department of Health should also contribute funding to Kew - it should not all come from one pot (Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
“Kew has around 70,000 ‘Friends’ of Kew - are they aware of what is going on? The latest magazine sent to members doesn’t mention any of this and makes out all is hunky dorey.”
“The only good thing to come out of the British Empire is Kew!”
“If Kew is a collective brain then it is having a stroke.”