CSR - Professional Gardening

Pledge to protect front-line services at key bodies.

Professional Gardeners Guild chairman Tony Arnold said it was not clear how the review would affect gardeners at this stage but he was worried because they were "usually the first to go" in cutbacks and hoped "people would have sense not to go down that route".

Many organisations were still awaiting confirmation of future funding allocation, with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew among those facing cutbacks. The level of Kew's cuts were yet to be finalised, but head of arboretum Tony Kirkham previously said he was anticipating a decrease in funding of 20 per cent. A representative said they were unable to comment at this stage due to "lack of information".

English Heritage survived the bonfire of the quangos but has had its Government grant cut by 32 per cent. Chair Baroness Andrews said the cuts would be "exceptionally challenging to manage" and translated to a £130m funding cut over 13 years.

She said they will do all they can to protect front-line services and a clearer picture will emerge following an upcoming meeting of English Heritage commissioners. The organisation has 11 sites with dedicated gardening staff. It is estimated that there are around 56 permanent posts.

A representative from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, one of the biggest employers of gardeners in the country, said its budget was under discussion but "because a budget goes a certain way it does not necessarily mean an impact straight away on gardeners - they are just one part of our budget".

Historic & Botanic Garden Bursary scheme co-ordinator Fiona Dennis said professional gardeners were keen to take on trainees, but "some potential host gardens are challenged by budget constraints and by staff recruitment freezes".

She said applications for the scheme were increasing and "Government cuts have not affected people's willingness to increase their skill level with practical experience in historic gardens".

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