The department responsible for managing, leasing and selling South Ayrshire Council property has no dedicated staff, it has been revealed.

The issue was raised at the council’s Cabinet last week, as Council Leader Martin Dowey pointed out that there were a number of overdue items, largely falling within the Estates remit.

South Ayrshire Council’s Asset Manager, Tom Burns, admitted that difficulties recruiting over the last six months meant that the Estates department had no members of staff and ‘had to push back dates detailed in the action log’.

A council spokesperson said that the department would normally have three full-time equivalent (FTE) staff who would be responsible for the management and disposal of council buildings as well as the acquisition of land and property.

They added the issues was a ‘reduction in the availability of suitability qualified candidates and an increasingly competitive labour market’.

Instead, staff with ‘appropriate experience’ have been seconded from other parts of the council, with external contractors undertaking specific pieces of work.

The largest body of work outstanding is related to the council’s Net Zero Carbon Retrofit plan, which requires a full review of the council’s estate to look at ‘occupancy, geographical locations, and potential co-location of services to ensure the estate is as lean as possible, whilst still maintaining critical front-line services in each ward’.

It was agreed in November 2021 and was due for completion in November 2022. A review of Ayr Esplanade was also originally agreed by the last administration almost four years ago, in June 2019.

The council had originally sought to develop plans for alternative facilities on the Low Green as well as notifying tenants of the kiosk’s notice of termination.

In the report to last week’s cabinet, it states: “Notices to quit now withdrawn while consideration is given to the future plans for the kiosks.”

However, this work had been due for completion in December.

Another job set out in 2019 involves a new lease for Craigie Caravan Park.

Complications have arisen as the Caravan Club sought to keep annual rents based on the basis of occupancy levels, as opposed to a fixed market rent with five yearly reviews as preferred by the council.

The caravan club has now sought to agree a cap on rent increases at reviews. This was due to be completed in January.

The council’s website describes the Estates Service as ‘a professional property management service’ which provides ‘a comprehensive management service for all the council’s leased properties excluding council housing’.

“Estates handle the sale of all surplus property by sale or by lease and manage the Council’s Industrial Portfolio. Estates also provide advice and information on all property related matters including the council’s land and property ownerships.”

Other services include land and property acquisitions, valuations, rating appeals, accommodation allocation, wayleave and servitude requests, site surveys and the preparation of lease, site and title deed plans.