COUNCIL tenants are to get a week off paying rent and service charges.
The bonus week, which will happen some time before this autumn, will put an average of nearly £60 each in tenants' pockets.
Plymouth City Council, which raised council rents by 5.88 per cent earlier this year, has agreed to take up an offer from the Government of increased subsidies for councils.
The new subsidy was intended to support a cut in the level of rent increases, but the city's housing stock is being transferred to a new housing association, which will not be eligible to get the subsidy.
Council officers came up with the idea of a free week to get round the restrictions.
Councillors from both parties unanimously backed the plan at yesterday's meeting of the full city council.
Giving the city's tenants a week off paying will cost the council £300,000, despite the Government subsidy.
The free week will be between now and October, before the official launch of Plymouth Community Homes, the new not-for-profit housing association that will administer the social housing stock after a ballot of residents last autumn.
Service charges will also be waived during the free week.
The average council rent is £57 a week.
Cllr Peter Brookshaw, the Cabinet member for housing, said the council was giving a free week rather than cutting the overall rent rise to ensure that Plymouth Community Homes started life with a clean slate.
Tudor Evans, the Labour group leader on the council, said: "To do it any other way would have presented the fledgling Plymouth Community Homes with an enormous problem.
"I understand that there are other local authorities that are not taking up this offer from the Government."
Labour councillors joined the Conservatives in giving the scheme unanimous support.
Later Mr Brookshaw praised the "cross-party working" that had allowed the scheme to be brought in so quickly.
He said: "Plymouth is in a very unusual position. We are the only council with a transfer planned half way through this financial year. Finding a solution that is workable for tenants and Plymouth Community Homes has been challenging.
"While the council could recover the lost income, Plymouth Community Homes would not and this would have seriously affected their business plan and ability to achieve decent homes. We hope this innovative solution is the way forward."
Clive Turner, chief executive designate of Plymouth Community Homes, said: "The council and Plymouth Community Homes have worked really well together to come up with a fair solution."
The council cannot yet give a date for the rent-free week as it has to take into account alterations to its accounting system. Other options such as refunding money were also considered but discounted because of the complexities of the billing and benefits systems.
Cornwall Council is considering cutting rent increases to 2.4 per cent because of the new Government subsidy.
In February the council set the level of the average rent increase at £3.14 (5.5 per cent).
Because Cornish council tenants have already paid rent at the higher level for two months, the council is recommending an average rent increase of £1.06 a week from June 1.