RHS streamlining aims to promote society's growth

A move to streamline the RHS that has involved the loss of eight senior members of staff will lead to growth of the society, says new director-general Sue Biggs.

After just 80 days in charge, Biggs made the second restructure at the RHS in a year, with the departure of Gordon Seabright, Simon Thornton-Wood, Sarah Buxton, Susannah Charlton and Abigail Page.

Biggs has set up "seven pillars of activity", formed to have clear accountability and decision-making. The "pillars of activities" place horticulture including plant trials, plant committees and industry relationships clearly at the heart of the organisation. She said that "in all cases (the redundancies) are nothing to do with ability".

Biggs said that "education and commercial needs to run through each pillar", with the focus on creating a more efficient structure. She explained that there was a lack of clear responsibilities for each department, with "different things all over the place" and "different accountabilities".

She said of her predecessor's job cuts, completed this year: "I'm sure everyone who does make changes does it with the best intentions. It was not wrong before, but for me the RHS was not in the shape I would like it to be."

She said a meeting last week informed all staff of the changes. She added: "This has unanimous support of council with the clear purpose to grow the RHS."

Biggs said she could not be sure that there would not be more restructuring or redundancies in future. She said talks with stakeholders showed the biggest desire in the RHS was to grow the society, which "it hasn't achieved to any great extent in the past few years".

She added: "I'm aware I'm sticking my head above the parapet by saying now we can achieve that - even in challenging times - by appealing to a wider base." She added that streamlining was a good word for the changes, which involve "smoothing things out".

Performance targets for the financial year 2011 will be set by the new leadership, which met for the first time on 2 November.

New RHS leadership team
- Sue Biggs, director-general
- James Rudoni, director of gardens
- Will Havercroft, head of retail
- Stephen Bennett, director of shows
- Jim Gardiner, director of horticulture
- Dan Wolfe, director of members, art and media
- Roger Williams, head of science
- Ruth Evans, head of community and development
- Kerry Smith, head of HR
- TBC, director of finance & IT
Seven core pillars of activity
- Gardens
- Retail
- Shows
- Horticulture
- Members, art and media
- Science
- Community and development.

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