An urgent service improvement plan is needed for the council’s property division a committee has decided after hearing of significant work pressures on staff.

A report on Pembrokeshire County Council’s property department raised concerns about capacity, response times and the ability of the team to deal with its workload, which members of the services overview and scrutiny committee heard on Tuesday (November 16) had increased significantly while staff levels had almost halved.

A report to committee states that the overall asset portfolio had a valuation of £810million with a wide range of assists including schools, administrative buildings, infrastructure assets and vehicles.

The property division also assists with a number of corporate and regeneration projects, as well as Brexit and covid issues, which has resulted in a significantly expanded workload with no additional resources putting a strain on capacity and “a consequential impact on day to day operations.”

Councillors heard that there were 14 full time equivalent staff members in the department, which was half the amount of five years ago with chief property officer Helen McLeod-Baikie adding there were “three resignations pending” and a desire to look at more flexible staffing models.

Mrs. McLeod-Baikie said that her team cared about their work and went above and beyond to meet requirements which resulted in 50/60 hour weeks, weekend and late night work, difficulty taking annual leave, with a lack of work/life balance a reason for at least two staff departures, as well as higher pay elsewhere.

Cabinet member for finance Clr. Bob Kilmister said that a restructure of the department and a move towards a “corporate landlord” model had been proposed when he took up his role, but it was not implemented, with the new chief executive Will Bramble now tasked with making any changes as the head of paid service.

Clr. Tony Wilcox said improving pay and conditions was “something that’s got to be done otherwise we are not going to provide the service ewe need to provide” but was told it was not as simple as increasing pay for certain roles, with other considerations including council tax rates and job evaluation.

A proposal from Clr. Di Clements that cabinet be asked to procure an urgent service improvement plan for the department and report that to the next meeting was unanimously supported by the committee, with chairman Clr. Rob Summons adding he felt there had been a “cry for help.”