Kew's patron Prince Charles should help plug funding gap, former trustee Anna Ford suggests

Former Royal Botanic Gardens Kew trustee, broadcaster Anna Ford, has called on Prince Charles to help plug the funding gap at the world-renowned institution.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Photo: HW
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Photo: HW

Kew must find £5m in cuts and income generation to balance its books at the west London botanical centre of excellance and gardens and Wakehurst Place in Surrey, after Government funding through Defra was cut.

As many as 125 jobs, mainly from the sciences, are set to go in a move widely condemned. Sir David Attenborough has said Kew is "the premiere botanical gardens in the world" and not just a pretty garden.

Others have warned that scientific knowledge could be lost forever at a time when bio-security, climate change and food shortages loom.

Ford, who was a trustee at Kew – a UNESCO World Heritage Site - in the 1990s has suggested Prince Charles, who is Kew’s patron could find some of the money from his own wealth, estimated to be worth £125m.

She told The Guardian on Friday; "For Britain to have a world heritage site that's treated with such miserable parsimony is quite shocking. I feel a sense of despair.

"How can you keep the place going at that level of staffing? It's a form of bullying. Defra is saying to Kew you're just another way we can save money and slash things and don't you dare complain."

MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston which includes Kew Zac Goldsmith has also questioned the cuts, although he has not yet signed an Early Day Motion calling for a Parliamentary debate on the subject, laid down by the Labour member for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell and signed by nine MPs.

Two MPs from the ruling parties have signed – Worthing West Tory MP Peter Bottomley and Lib Dem St Ives MP Andrew George.

A petition created by an Prospect union's Julie Flanagan on the website has now reached nearly 75,000 signatures.

Kew director Richard Deverell has pledged to protect horticulture and grow visitor numbers and income. He told Horticulture Week that he was "not dismayed" by the task.

He said: "It's credible by 2020 to have two million visitors. We need to give people many more reasons to visit through stronger events and festivals, higher standards of horticulture and better scientific interpretation. I'm entirely confident we can get through this cost/headcount reduction and do a lot to grow income."

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