Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is in trouble. With a cut back in funding by the government of £2million a year, Kew now faces an annual deficit of £5.5million. Despite efforts to raise more income through consultancy and the Kew Foundation, it is unable to survive without more funding. After a lot of effort from campaigners, the government has now agreed to two one-off payments amounting to a total of £3.8million, but without long-term backing from the Government, Kew's existence is under threat. Whilst this might sound like a lot of money, to put it into perspective, the Natural History Museum receives nearly £44million from grants.
This deficit has resulted in heavy cuts in staffing and to their science programme. 120 jobs have been lost and further jobs are at risk with the additional cuts to funding proposed for 2016. These job losses will not only be a huge blow to the Kew community, but also to the horticultural world globally, for the work that Kew conducts is far-reaching.
Kew is a collection of amazing gardens which are enjoyed by people, young and old, throughout the seasons and years. But it is so much more than just a beautiful landscape. Kew Gardens has been running for over 250 years and is a world leader in horticultural sciences. The research conducted at Kew is leading the way into how plants can be used by humans for food or medicine. Kew is also home to some 300,000 seeds as part of the Millennium Seed Bank. This means over 13% of the world's seeds are stored and protected at Kew Gardens in Richmond, safe-guarding them from extinction. The Millennium Seed Bank plays a crucial role in the conservation of plants in a world which is facing increasing pressures from climate change and urbanisation.
There is something magical about Kew. In a crowded, built-up city, Kew offers a place of serenity and peace that is hard to find. To lose Kew Gardens or to even cut back on their work and scientific outputs would be a huge loss, both for visitors and to the scientific community. Sir David Attenborough, an advocate of Kew, has said:
""Kew has an absolutely crucial role in looking after our botanical heritage and our botanical future. The important thing to remember is that it is the premiere botanical gardens in the world scientifically. People who think it is just a place to go to look at pretty flowers and flower beds are mistaking the importance of Kew Gardens"
The Grass Garden at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Originally designed by the late Alan Cook, it holds an impressive 550 species of grass from around the world.