Zac Goldsmith and James Wong speak out in fight to save Kew science from cuts

A packed church hall audience has seen passionate advocacy of the "national treasure" that is Kew Gardens and the distress of those who face losing their jobs.


At a standing room only public meeting at the Avenue Halls in Kew last night arranged by three unions representing staff at Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, political, trade union and botanist panellists spoke up for Kew, which is consulting on an estimated 120 job cuts to save £5m a year.

Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith said it was impossible to imagine the level of cuts needed.

"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 at the cutting edge of science.

"I think it’s impossible to reconcile these cuts with any sort of sustainable future for Kew."
Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell said that people treasure Kew but that that staff were under "immense pressure"

"We’ve seen some tragic results. I’m worried we are near a tipping point," he said.

He called for Kew’s three-year review to be brought forward to next year to fix long-term sustainable funding - "a solid base of grant aid".

"If we can do that we’ll look back in the long term and say ‘we saved Kew’. If we can’t I fear the degradation of the park and the scientific work that goes on - we would never forgive ourselves."

Ethnobotanist James Wong, who left his childhood home of Singapore to study and then work at Kew, struck a chord when he said that Kew’s problem was that people saw it as an "adorable" garden only, whereas its scientists work on internationally important projects at a time when the world faces global famine by 2050.

"Most MPs that have been brought up on a diet of garden makeover shows can’t understand that all of these things are interlinked. Nobody ever mentions that the leading drug that treats ebola comes from plants."

Staff members also spoke about their fears of losing their jobs and criticised the restructuring process.

For more see the next week’s issue of Horticulture Week.

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