An early Christmas present in the form of a further £2.3 million of funding still won’t prevent 125 job losses at Kew Gardens.
This week Zac Goldsmith the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston led a cross-party debate to push the Government to secure the long-term future of the 250-year-old Royal Botanic site in West London.
On the same day the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had responded to the large-scale campaign by announcing the extra funding for 2015/16.
He said: “Kew is so much more than a garden and green space, its reputation as a botanical research base and centre for science is world-renowned.
“Balancing the books in this country has meant budgets are tight, but I’m delighted to be able to commit continued funding for Kew as both a leading research hub and beautiful tourist attraction.”
However, the gardens has a budget gap of £5m and is well into a period of restructuring which has already seen a host of respected scientists engaged in vital research into everything from climate change to world hunger leave their posts.
Back in September Mr Goldsmith and his Labour opposite John McDonnell (MP for Hayes and Harlington) had delivered a 100,000 signature petition to Downing Street opposing the budget cuts announced by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs.
That came ahead of a public meeting held in Kew back in October.
Responding to the new grant Mr Goldsmith said: “What this shows is that the Government knows it badly miscalculated the public reaction to its plans for Kew Gardens.
“But it also demonstrates that public campaigning can work. The petition we delivered to Number 10 provoked Nick Clegg to grant the first reprieve of £1.5m, and my debate today has provoked a second reprieve.
“This is obviously good news for Kew, but it cannot stop here. Kew needs long term certainty so it can restructure itself for a sustainable future.
“Kew is one of the most amazing things we have in the country. It’s a national treasure, it has seven million plant specimens, two million visitors a year and it’s impossible to exaggerate its importance to the world’s scientific community.
“It is at the very cutting edge of research into food security and climate change, and it is hard to square that work with the steepness and depth of the proposed cuts.”
Mr McDonnell also spoke at the debate and added: “I congratulate Zac Goldsmith, who has been campaigning so hard on this particular issue — not just as a constituency matter, but as a genuine commitment to the work that Kew undertakes.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) the Government’s own Science and Technology Committee began an inquiry into the cuts.
Brentford and Isleworth MP Mary Macleod’s constituency borders the gardens at Kew Bridge and has also pushed ministers to grant more money to secure their future.
Julie Flanagan, negotiations officer for the union Prospect which along with the PCS and GMB is battling to safeguard the careers of all members of staff, responded: “We welcome the further additional funding, but this does not deal with the ongoing issue of sustainable and stable funding for Kew.
“We have asked Kew to give an indication that no compulsory redundancies will now take place and are awaiting a response.
“Kew has already lost a considerable number of staff to redundancies, experience that is now lost and cannot be undone as also applies to the restructure.”
Kew’s director Richard Deverell attended the inquiry and said the money would go towards managing its journey towards a sustainable financial future.