Approximately 250 people attended, including council, housing association, co-op and private tenants, union members and several local councillors.
Among them was the elected mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, who repeated his and his council’s opposition to the Act and called on other councils to join the campaign against it.
Critically, the all-day meeting was attended by people from 20 local authority areas outside of London, as well as half the London boroughs. There was strong representation from Kent (including Canterbury and Dover) and the south-coast (Portsmouth and Southampton), but also from the south-west (Swindon and Bristol), the midlands (Birmingham and Leicester) and Yorkshire (Leeds and Sheffield).
This geographic spread reflects the national scale of the threat and the fact that people across the country are waking up to it.
The growing breadth of opposition to the Act was further reflected in a statement initiated by the Bishop of Stepney and signed by 22 other faith leaders, including the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK Hindu Council and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark, calling on the government to ‘think again’.
The opening speaker was Janice Sweeney, a council tenant from Kensington and Chelsea threatened with ‘Pay to Stay’ who said she refused to be blamed for the housing crisis created by successive government policies.
But Liz Davies, from the Society of Labour Lawyers advised the meeting not to look for legal loop-holes as a way of stopping the Act. That could only be done by political campaigning. Guy Shennan, national chair of the British Association of Social Workers shared the testimonies of his members about the catastrophic impact the housing crisis is already having on families and communities, without the additional anxiety and insecurity the Act will bring.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s national secretary for local government pledged her union’s support for the campaign, which could be a vital source of reassurance for the many UNISON members who, in theory, will be charged with implementing the Act.
The most important part of the summit was the opportunity for people to share experiences, knowledge and ideas.
There were many calls for all social landlords (council and housing association) to follow the lead of Islington Council and write to all their tenants informing them of the dangers posed by the Act and inviting them to a local public meeting to find out more.
Many said the Act is ‘unworkable’, but the real ‘summit’ for the campaign will be when the Act is repealed.