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

Professor Mary Gibby FSB gave evidence at the STC hearing: ‘Funding the Royal Botanic Gardens’, in December on behalf of the UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF), a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology.

In response to today’s report: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Professor Mary Gibby FSB, Honorary Research Fellow at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said:
“We are pleased the Committee agreed with our view that to continue its excellent contribution to science Kew requires secure, long term funding that will ensure its sustainability and relevance.

“The excellent plant and mycology research conducted at Kew is a benefit to our nation and to our international reputation for excellence. Kew’s leadership should have the resources to direct and develop their science strategy to fulfil its potential.”

The Society also submitted written evidence to the Science and Technology Committee last year.

While the management is criticised in the new report for failing to produce a strategy ahead of making changes and introducing redundancies (Kew released its science strategy last week), 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.

Dr Mimi Tanimoto MSB, UK Plant Sciences Federation executive officer, said:
“Kew needs financial certainty to plan for its future. Without stable, long term financial support, its capacity to undertake much of its world-leading fundamental plant and fungal research is at risk.”

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.

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