SOLVING THE SLUM PROBLEM [To the Editor of the SPEc-rATon.]
Sin,--The articles and correspondence which have appeared in your columns have rendered most valuable public service in directing attention to the urgent need for comprehensive remedial measures to deal effectively with this difficult prob- lem. Many side issues have been raised and suggestions made for dealing with particular aspects of the problem, each and all of which help by causing some amount of thought to be given to the many-sided obstacle we have to remove from the path of progress.
All who take a practical interest in the subject are grateful for this publicity. We realize that the solution we seek will come, and can only come, through a fully informed public opinion and aroused conscience. We may well hope that the example set by the Spectator will be promptly followed else- where. And while we look with confidence to the Press to help in the task, we look to the Churches to take a strong line in appealing to the plain Christian duty of mankind to care for our needy neighbours.
If we now take stock and inquire what is there of practical value emerging from the articles and correspondence that have so far appeared, I think we shall generally agree that the work of the Copec Public Utility Societies stands out in bold relief. This is so because from the accounts of the Societies men- tioned it is clear that their operations provide the long-looked- for route to the very heart of the enemy, and the nearest way to relieve the pressure where it is greatest.
This Voluntary Housing of the Poor Crusade in which the Copec Societies are engaged can utilize large or small contributions in service, money, or kind to the best advantage, and with the minimum of administrative charges. Those hire your correspondent who are in a position to subscribe to a 2i% National Housing Loan, need not wait for a State issue. Any of the Societies will be glad of all the help possible in this way. This method of contributing by sacrificing interest has proved a source of substantial help, as our Societies at Kendal, Manchester, St. Pancras, Cambridge, and many others can testify.
To indicate the effect of cheap money it may be stated that Manchester, by borrowing at 21 per cent. instead of at 5 per cent., reckons to save on the difference between the two rates of interest a weekly sum on the rent of a house of 4s. 10d. The sum total achieved by the Voluntary Societies, though considerable, is but a tiny contribution to what must be pro- vided, but it is certain that these pioneers have blazed a trail that will lead to results of wonderful value to the nation if widely followed. Wherever the need exists there is scope for this crusade. Undenominational, but all denominations helping, Non-political, but all parties and all shades of opinion co-operating, and each effort entirely locally managed.
The time may come when the Minister of Health will be empowered to deal drastically with the slum problem, although he may not be given powers to sterilize M.D.'s and to lethal-ize profiteering slum landlords, or to deal suitably with inept Local Authorities, or other factors that produce and perpetuate slums. There will, however, always be an important place in the scheme of things for the beneficent work of the Volun- tary Societies. The Churches are waking up, the Press is taking notice, Shall we not conclude, then, that there is hope for the oppressed dwellers in the dark shadow land of
slumdom ?—I am, Sir, &c., F. SPEAKE. 2 Whitehall Gardens, Shrewsbury.