Letters: Government must preserve the heritage of Kew

These letters appear in the Tuesday 23rd April edition of the Independent

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The cuts in funding imposed on Kew Gardens show how little respect the current Government has for even the greatest aspects of our national heritage.

Kew is more than 250 years old and became a national botanical garden in 1840. Until the 1970s, the entrance fee was set very low to attract visitors.

I remember as a small child paying the one-penny charge at the turnstiles, and even as late as the 1970s entry cost just a pre-decimal threepenny bit.

A further 10 per cent rise this year means that the charge for a single adult is now £16, an increase of over a thousand times in  43 years.

Kew has a track record of scientific innovation and commercial benefits far in excess of the grant aid it has received. It hosts the national seed bank, protecting the gene pool for the future by preserving less commercial varieties. It also maintains the database of plant names and provides a valuable service to police forces on forensic horticulture.

Not only has the work at Kew delivered great benefits to the UK, but it is also home to 40 listed buildings, two scheduled ancient monuments and also unique glasshouses.

Kew currently receives 1.3 million visitors a year. Funding of £28.5m a year for its work compares very favourably with the aid of around £44m given by the Arts Council to fund the opera houses in London, money which impacts on the lives of so few people compared with Kew.

Unesco has recognised Kew’s value by listing it as a World Heritage Site. The Government has an obligation to support our heritage. We must return to a position where 90 per cent of Kew’s valuable work is supported by Government funding and reverse the decline that  has reduced that to just  40 per cent.

More than 60,000 people have already signed a petition to have these cuts reversed, but the Government stays silent – yet more evidence that they know the cost of everything and the value  of nothing.

Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolkhealthcare is  not a business

As a registered nurse working in hospitals and the community in London, I have seen the detrimental effects on staff and patients of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 at first hand. 

Why is there little reporting on the cause of these effects – namely, the privatisation of our NHS? This has meant that, while the budget may not have been cut, public funds have been diverted away from staffing and patient care to facilitate business entering the NHS, which has cost the taxpayer billions.

And why is there no mention of the £2bn year on year that the NHS has returned to the Treasury in savings?

This “liberalisation of the NHS”, as Andrew Lansley championed it, seems to coincide with similar legislation that has been passed and is coming into effect in other EU countries.

With public procurement as one of the main areas targeted as an investment opportunity in the EU/US trade deal currently being negotiated, is it not a legitimate concern that our NHS is not only being sold to business investors in an internal market, but will also soon be the target for international investment should this deal go ahead?

I have experienced working for a private provider set up after the Health and Social Care Act was implemented, and I can attest to the fact that when business is involved in healthcare decisions, health needs take a back seat to company profits.

Sian Grbin, London NW6

Honest police officers ignored

The recent story about police constable James Patrick apparently being victimised for daring to expose in the media his concerns about massaging of crime statistics begs the question of just how honest officers are expected to voice such views.

During the 1980s, when I was a serving Metropolitan police inspector, I experienced treatment similar to that experienced by Mr Patrick. After going into print about my concerns about what I saw as the Met’s mismanagement of the sick-leave facility, I submitted a simple suggestion to Scotland Yard’s management services department.

I proposed that any officer with a grievance that had been ignored by his immediate supervisors should condense the facts into a written report and hand it to his superintendent in exchange for a signed receipt, with a full response to be provided in due course by top management. The idea was rejected on the grounds that it would indicate “a lack of trust in senior officers”.

One wonders how many other honest officers are keeping quiet about blatant cases of malpractice because of fears their careers might be damaged.

John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk

The dangers of sun worship

The harmful effects of excessive sun exposure on Caucasian skin have been widely publicised for several decades (“Melanoma rates are up five times on the 1970s”, 21 April). Yet there is little or no evidence of lifestyle changes.

Sun creams and lotions are still promoted and used as adjuncts for fortnightly foreign holidays, whereas they need to be used to some degree all-year round.

The approach of the white British is to fling off tops and expose every inch of skin on the first sign of warm sunshine, a recipe for leathery skin and melanoma. 

Modest sun exposure is healthy. But the great British religion of sun worship is turning us wrinkly before our time.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines-upon-Thames

The way the UK is going, you could overtake Australia as the melanoma capital of the world. For the past 30 years, we in Australia have had a Slip, Slop, Slap and

Wrap campaign to reduce the amount of melanomas: slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap around sunglasses.

We see your Royals out here without hats, a no-no in our climate, especially as Bill is going bald. He must have a right royal sunburn.

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

Why don’t teachers stay off social media?

Teachers represent the most unjustly persecuted of professions. But when I hear that one in five is abused on social media (“Teachers: ‘Our pupils are targeting us’”, 21 April), I have to ask why teachers are using these services at all?

There can be few teachers who do not receive enough abuse in school to keep them going, without looking for more. And isn’t it well known that the social media represent an irresistible temptation for appalling people to post the most dreadful stuff?

Martin Murray, London SW2

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