MPs set to probe Kew funding shortfall

Evidence session set to be held by Commons select committee will cover the impact of £5m funding gap at Kew Gardens.

Kew Gardens: cuts mean more than 1,000 years of experience lost
Kew Gardens: cuts mean more than 1,000 years of experience lost

The Commons science and technology committee is to hold a one-off evidence session on announcements by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew regarding its handling of a £5m budget gap.

Union Prospect negotiator Julie Flanagan said the hearing - at Cambridge Cottage, Kew, on 17 December - would come "too late" for the staff who will lose their jobs as part of Kew's cut of 125 posts. She said Kew needs a "sustainable" funding model like the BBC's if it is to "remain a world leader in plant science".

Kew has lost more than 1,000 years of experience with 65 staff gone already, Flanagan added.

The committee said: "Although Nick Clegg announced on 3 September that Defra will maintain current funding until the end of the 2015 financial year, funding beyond this is unclear."

The ability of Kew to maintain its reputation as an institution at the forefront of botany has been called into question by GMB regional officer Paul Grafton, who said Kew "faced a significant threat to its future" because many of the 125 projected job losses would be in the science directorate.

Science and technology committee chair Andrew Miller MP said: "Kew Gardens is a world heritage site and a world-renowned centre for botanical research, and like many Government-sponsored bodies is being asked to justify its funding and to look for possible cuts.

"We intend to look at the evidence behind Defra's budget cuts, Kew's response to that and the potential impact of both on Kew Gardens' future as a research and education facility."

Kew said: "On 1 December 2014 there are 168 full-time equivalent posts in the new Kew science structure so the total number of full-time equivalent posts lost in Kew science at the end of the restructure is 47, with 32 removed during the restructure, in addition to 15 vacancies that were frozen at the start of the financial year and subsequently removed during the restructure."

Kew director Richard Deverell and Kew science director Professor Kathy Willis are both likely to be questioned by MPs.

Select committee - Topics being covered

- What makes Kew a pioneering institution in its field?

- Is the Government failing in its duty to adequately resource a National Heritage site?

- What is Kew Gardens doing to increase its commercial success and keep operational costs low?

- Was the reduction in funding from Defra evidence-based and how does it reflect on Kew's world-class research status?


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