News of threat of job cuts at Kew greeted with dismay by supporters

Professionals have voiced "shock" at the news that up to 125 jobs could go at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as it struggles with a £5m funding shortfall (HW, 4 April).

An online petition calling on Government to reverse Kew's ongoing funding cuts, which triggered the need for job cuts, has reached more than 10,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, on Twitter people have asked why the UK could afford to pay for the Olympics or RBS bankers bonuses but not Kew, where many specialised staff are on salaries below £20,000.

Recently retired Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh regius keeper Stephen Blackmore said: "Kew is a vital bit of world heritage. No other country would think of cutting its budget.'"

He called for the Government to rethink its plans and consider some kind of bridging loan for Kew to allow it to build up its income-generating capacity. Cutting senior scientists would also reduce the ability of Kew to bring in research grants and other funding, he added.

"I think there's a sense of shock inside Kew. People don't expect to be in a bubble when it comes to austerity but they probably thought their preeminent reputation would protect them."

Ethnobotanist, television presenter and author James Wong, who trained and worked at Kew, told HW that cuts would be "disastrous for the nation." He added: "I don't think the decision-makers realise that it's not just a pretty garden. One of the few things that the UK still leads the world in is botany. That's because of Kew."

So far nine MPs have signed an early day motion calling on the Government to allow "a full public debate" on the cuts.

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