24 June 1969
In this week’s Guild Gazette this rather obsequious letter from a local Tory councillor to Princess Alexandra is reproduced on the Letters to the Editor page:
Vine Street – the reasons why – by a Tory Councillor
H.R.H. The Princess Alexandra,
17th May 1969
Your Royal Highness,
I am one of the three City Councillors elected to represent the interests of the people of Abercromby Ward, and I would first like to offer my regrets and apologies that l was not present during your visit to the houses in Vine Street.
This was because apparently no-one saw fit to advise the three Councillors of the time of this visit, and we only knew of it through the Press Publicity the following day. I was however at the tea, though again I was not on the list to bc introduced to you personally.
May I bring to your attention the fact that in the past year since my election I have s pent an enormous amount of time in trying to alleviate the sufferings of the people i n the area, and indeed I believe the people there would bear this out if asked. I attended the meeting of the Abercromby Tenants Association the evening before your visit, and stated publicly that I supported their efforts to draw attention to their plight, though I would not, and could not support any demonstration which could be interpreted as antagonistic to your personal visit.
I believe the loyalty and affection shewn [sic] by the people to Your Highness’ person shows that these people arc responsible, and that my advice was heeded.
You will I am sure be aware that the problem is not by any means a simple one. Indeed it is as a result of events over a very long time that the situation has become as it is. I would wish you to know that whilst the City Authorities would be the last to claim that they are the paragons of virtue and efficiency, nevertheless they are making remarkable progress against an almost insuperable problem.
I wish, and I think my colleagues on the Council wish, that it were possible to rehouse everyone in sub-standard homes overnight. We wish that we could build the new homes alongside the old, and at rents the people could find completely satisfactory.
But this is not possible and in the fact that much of the new building must be done on the City’s outskirts, where land is available lies the seed of the reasons why so many people in Vine Street and elsewhere are not moved more quickly.
In making offers of suitable accommodation we have first to give priority to those in designated clearance areas to make room to build the very houses that are to replace the ones the remainder of the people have now to live in. Often this means giving priority to some in homes in better condition than those in non-clearance areas – and whilst this seems unfair it will not only mean newer homes faster but better designed and laid out residential areas.
Unfortunately the cost is that some must wait in unfit homes or longer than we would wish. In many cases, though, alternative accommodation IS offered – and turned down. This is not to say that it is turned down irresponsibly. But quite often the new home ls too far from the tenants work or from their relatives and friends, or refused for other valid reasons. However the City can only offer what it has, and often this is not what the resident wants. His wants are often impossible. if proper reconstruction is to be undertaken, but it is not unnatural that he should show dissatisfaction with the system.
In Liverpool we have the second worst problem in the country – and for a long ti me yet it will not be possible to build as many homes as are needed, as soon as they are needed. Indeed I have pointed out to the tenants if all the money spent on the Senate House and your reception were available for new building it is entirely possible that there is insufficient building labour and materials to use it anyway.
Thus our officials are faced with the appalling task of having to pick names from enormous lists – all equally deserving – and allocate the offer of new, or relet houses to them. It is inevitable that this will suit hardly anyone, and a large number of people will become resentful , and indeed suspicious of how the allocations are made.
I feel sure that if they were able to meet the officials who have to make these agonising decisions, they would better understand why they have to stay as long as they do in these appalling conditions, and that these men are human beings doing a fantastically difficult job – which the tenants themselves I am certain would not want to have to do themselves.
I write to you so that you will know that the people arc not without those trying to help them against great odds. I only wish that those responsible for your visit could have arranged that I and mv two councillor colleagues could have been present during your visit to Vine Street, so that you could have seen that the elected representatives are involved and attempting to do what they were elected to do – but this was not to be.
May I thank you, on behalf of the residents of Abercromby Ward for taking so much trouble in visiting them which has enabled publicity to be brought to their problems. I hope this will also help to highlight the problems of other citizens of Liverpool – since Vine Street, and the A bercromby Ward are by no means unique, I regret to say.
I trust you will understand when I say that I am sending a copy of this letter to the Press, in the hope that it will receive publicity, and ensure that a balanced picture of the problem is presented.
I sincerely hope Your Royal Highness had a pleasant visit to our city, and that it will not be too long before we are graced with your presence again.
Your humble servant,
David E Daniel