Kew Gardens funding must be put on secure footing

04 March 2015

The Government’s financial management of Kew Gardens is a recipe for failure, the Science and Technology Committee has warned in a new report.

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The way the Government provides funds to the Royal Botanic Gardens leaves them with little ability to plan for the future and is undermining Kew’s capability to produce world-beating plant science. The Government must work out a stable way of funding the Gardens that provides greater long-term certainty for Kew’s important work.

Recent financial problems have led to over a hundred people losing their jobs, 47 of which were scientists, and fears being raised over the ability of Kew to sustain its world class botanical and mycological science. While the management is criticised for failing to produce a strategy (eventually published on 23 February) ahead of making changes and introducing redundancies the Committee has confidence in the management to carry out its plan to ensure the future of both Kew and its scientific mission. Indeed, the report blames the pace of change on the difficult situation created by the restricted and stop/start nature of funding from the Government."

Andrew Miller MP continued:

"The Government does not needs to micro-manage Kew’s finances, it must give the Botanic Gardens the same financial freedom as similar leading scientific institutions. The Natural History Museum is thriving with far fewer restrictions on its budget from Government. We think it is time the Government ensured that there was a greater parity in treatment between these institutions".

The report raises concerns that too little of Kew’s funding is unrestricted. It points out that the Royal Botanic Gardens suffers in comparison with Natural History Museum. 96% of the Natural History Museum’s budget is unrestricted so it has the freedom to choose how it is spent. In Kew’s case Defra ends up making decisions better taken by management. The forthcoming Triennial review of Kew provides an opportunity to consider whether there should be more consistency of treatment between Natural History Museum and Kew according to the MPs.

Further information

Image: Kew Gardens

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