Dozens of jobs at risk as Kew Gardens faces £5m shortfall

Kew Gardens: Enjoyed a big surge in visitor numbers last year

Kew Gardens: Enjoyed a big surge in visitor numbers last year

First published in News Your Local Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Kew Gardens is at risk, after it revealed a £5m revenue shortfall and the loss of more than 100 jobs.

The Royal Botanical Gardens, a Unesco World Heritage Site, will lay off staff in a bid to overcome struggling finances.

Kew Gardens, which appointed a new director and executive board in 2012, said it could make up a third of the shortfall through self-generated income, but would need to cut about 125 roles across the gardens and Wakehurst Place in Sussex.

There are currently about 750 roles across the two sites.

Keen environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, highlighted the importance of the world heritage site to the Government’s environment department.

He said: “Kew Gardens is a national jewel, and it would be a tragedy if its reputation were to suffer as a result of excessive cuts.

“I have made the point in letters to Defra ministers.”

This year the botanical hotspot saw a 29 per cent surge in visitor numbers, but is still making changes to cut costs.

Concerns have been raised over how the conservation work Kew does could be affected.

Richard Pyne, a volunteer at Kew, said: “It is very worrying. There is deep expertise in many areas at Kew that we absolutely have to hold on to.

“Behind the scenes there is conservation work going on that is incredibly important to the long term success.”

A spokesman for Kew Gardens said: “We will work with staff to explore all options including schemes for voluntary exits, reduced working hours and unpaid leave, before moving onto consideration of redeployment, voluntary redundancies or, as a last resort, compulsory redundancies.

“We are working through detailed plans internally and will share more once this process is completed.

“The new executive board is leading the development of new strategies in key areas including science and the public offer, as well as strategies for growth of commercially-generated income over the coming years.”

Comments (6)

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11:34am Sat 29 Mar 14

EdwinaWaugh says...

My husband and I have been subscribers for many years, and it hurts us to see what the once magnificent Gardens have become. My first visits to Kew go back over sixty years, and I recall the wonderful flower beds and delightful layout. A pleasure for young and old. Over the last years we have seen the Gardens turned into a theme park, unattractive to the young (for whom they are supposed to be bait) and annoying to the older visitors. We have written many times to the management, but our comments are disregarded. The Kew Shop is dowdy and expensive, and they could learn from the V&A or the other museums which have bright and interesting stock. Young people would enjoy seeing lovely flowers instead of the stark and often grim bedding plants. Regents Park is filled with young people and children, delighting in the wonderful roses and other blooms. The management of Kew Gardens are trying to be trendy, but succeed in only destroying a natural heritage beauty spot.
My husband and I have been subscribers for many years, and it hurts us to see what the once magnificent Gardens have become. My first visits to Kew go back over sixty years, and I recall the wonderful flower beds and delightful layout. A pleasure for young and old. Over the last years we have seen the Gardens turned into a theme park, unattractive to the young (for whom they are supposed to be bait) and annoying to the older visitors. We have written many times to the management, but our comments are disregarded. The Kew Shop is dowdy and expensive, and they could learn from the V&A or the other museums which have bright and interesting stock. Young people would enjoy seeing lovely flowers instead of the stark and often grim bedding plants. Regents Park is filled with young people and children, delighting in the wonderful roses and other blooms. The management of Kew Gardens are trying to be trendy, but succeed in only destroying a natural heritage beauty spot. EdwinaWaugh
  • Score: 3

5:36pm Sat 29 Mar 14

mark mellor says...

Completely agree with the previous comment especially about the shop. Over the last few years or so the shop has gone downhill and gone downhill fast, it no longer appeals to the regular visitors. Whenever we go to the gardens we visit the shop to really round off the visit by having a laugh at the over-priced rubbish the shop now sells. All you hear is people laughing at the ranges they now sell. It is such a shame as the shop could easily make up the funding shortfall the gardens now has if it stocked the types of products that people actually want to buy. Clearly the 'management' are not listening to their customers. If the gardens are to make people redundant, could I suggest they start with the people the top - especially the buyers for the shop!
Completely agree with the previous comment especially about the shop. Over the last few years or so the shop has gone downhill and gone downhill fast, it no longer appeals to the regular visitors. Whenever we go to the gardens we visit the shop to really round off the visit by having a laugh at the over-priced rubbish the shop now sells. All you hear is people laughing at the ranges they now sell. It is such a shame as the shop could easily make up the funding shortfall the gardens now has if it stocked the types of products that people actually want to buy. Clearly the 'management' are not listening to their customers. If the gardens are to make people redundant, could I suggest they start with the people the top - especially the buyers for the shop! mark mellor
  • Score: 2

7:13pm Sat 29 Mar 14

lucullus says...

We don't use the shop very much, but I have to disagree with the above comments on what they've done to attract children and families. Our girls find a wide range of activities to do, and always seem to really enjoy visiting. Indeed when visiting we tend to see lots of children there, enjoying themselves, too.

I think Kew has a tough job, trying to maximise self-generated income while fulfilling important scientific goals - I don't know the details of the finances, but it sounds like fiddling with the shops isn't going to make the difference required.
We don't use the shop very much, but I have to disagree with the above comments on what they've done to attract children and families. Our girls find a wide range of activities to do, and always seem to really enjoy visiting. Indeed when visiting we tend to see lots of children there, enjoying themselves, too. I think Kew has a tough job, trying to maximise self-generated income while fulfilling important scientific goals - I don't know the details of the finances, but it sounds like fiddling with the shops isn't going to make the difference required. lucullus
  • Score: 4

12:01pm Sun 30 Mar 14

LaurenceMann says...

When I first visited Kew Gardens, in the 1960s, it cost 1d to get in, and it seems to me that they were a place of research, a living museum; where the public could roam in what was then a tranquil oasis.

I don't think that sort of world exists any longer, so unlike other correspondents here, have no wish to turn the clock back. Kew is still a wonderful place, with busy bits and quiet bits; and I do not think I have ever come away from there without having learnt something.

But clearly in the 1960s there was no thought of making a profit or breaking even: all those pennies would probably only have paid for the maintenance of the turnstiles. It is the profit element that has driven the attractions, which by definition are attracting people to this wonderful place.

But I would suggest that there needs to be some loosening of this financial garotte. On my last visit, earlier this month, I could not help noticing that the external condition of the pagoda is quite appalling. If their finances are in a dire condition, despite what is clearly substantial efforts to raise funds, then the conclusion is clear: this is an institution of national importance, and does not just raise money for itself but promotes tourism and national prestige. It is on a par with the British Museum and the major art galleries. The British Museum receives around £44m of state funding, Kew under £30m,

There does also seem to be a trade off between the cost of entry and visitor numbers. Because visitor numbers at Kew are around a quarter of those at the BM, the subsidy per visit is much higher.

There is a strong case for looking at our museums and other attractions as an element of our national tourist industry rather than as stand-alone "businesses"; and also, for us residents, as an essential amenity for us, who directly and indirectly contribute to, and also enjoy them.
When I first visited Kew Gardens, in the 1960s, it cost 1d to get in, and it seems to me that they were a place of research, a living museum; where the public could roam in what was then a tranquil oasis. I don't think that sort of world exists any longer, so unlike other correspondents here, have no wish to turn the clock back. Kew is still a wonderful place, with busy bits and quiet bits; and I do not think I have ever come away from there without having learnt something. But clearly in the 1960s there was no thought of making a profit or breaking even: all those pennies would probably only have paid for the maintenance of the turnstiles. It is the profit element that has driven the attractions, which by definition are attracting people to this wonderful place. But I would suggest that there needs to be some loosening of this financial garotte. On my last visit, earlier this month, I could not help noticing that the external condition of the pagoda is quite appalling. If their finances are in a dire condition, despite what is clearly substantial efforts to raise funds, then the conclusion is clear: this is an institution of national importance, and does not just raise money for itself but promotes tourism and national prestige. It is on a par with the British Museum and the major art galleries. The British Museum receives around £44m of state funding, Kew under £30m, There does also seem to be a trade off between the cost of entry and visitor numbers. Because visitor numbers at Kew are around a quarter of those at the BM, the subsidy per visit is much higher. There is a strong case for looking at our museums and other attractions as an element of our national tourist industry rather than as stand-alone "businesses"; and also, for us residents, as an essential amenity for us, who directly and indirectly contribute to, and also enjoy them. LaurenceMann
  • Score: 5

9:07pm Sun 30 Mar 14

Concerned_Resident says...

“Kew Gardens is a national jewel, and it would be a tragedy if its reputation were to suffer as a result of excessive cuts."

Well Zac, you'd best root round for loose change in the pockets of your offshore interests then!

Kew's become an expensive place to spend the day, it must be said. Yes, kids spend lots of time in Regents Park but at what cost? Precisely nothing. Kew needs to offer something for the buck they charge to get in now. £14.50 in an area saturated with nice places to walk for free seems excessive these days. More exhibitions like the butterflies or the like would go a long way in my opinion.
“Kew Gardens is a national jewel, and it would be a tragedy if its reputation were to suffer as a result of excessive cuts." Well Zac, you'd best root round for loose change in the pockets of your offshore interests then! Kew's become an expensive place to spend the day, it must be said. Yes, kids spend lots of time in Regents Park but at what cost? Precisely nothing. Kew needs to offer something for the buck they charge to get in now. £14.50 in an area saturated with nice places to walk for free seems excessive these days. More exhibitions like the butterflies or the like would go a long way in my opinion. Concerned_Resident
  • Score: 1

10:32pm Tue 1 Apr 14

Twickenham Bob says...

Kew is free for accompanied children under 16 - making it reasonable for families.

However - it does mean that adults are less inclined to visit. It feels a rip-off, and many feel rightly or wrongly that they shouldn't pay inflated entrance fees to subsidise other peoples children leisure pursuits. Many of whom will be coming from far wealthier families than themselves.

Entrance should either be free for all - of a reasonable charge should be applied to all
Kew is free for accompanied children under 16 - making it reasonable for families. However - it does mean that adults are less inclined to visit. It feels a rip-off, and many feel rightly or wrongly that they shouldn't pay inflated entrance fees to subsidise other peoples children leisure pursuits. Many of whom will be coming from far wealthier families than themselves. Entrance should either be free for all - of a reasonable charge should be applied to all Twickenham Bob
  • Score: 1

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