RESTRUCTURE plans at the Swindon-based research councils have been heavily criticised.

Around 30 members of the 134-strong communications teams across UK Research and Innovation face being asked to move to new roles. The changes affect those in more junior communications roles.

A source claimed staff had been left disengaged and disgruntled by the proposed changes.

The Advertiser understands that those affected by the reorganisation have been offered opportunities for “redeployment”, including in scientific roles, at other locations and, most confusingly, as plumbers.

A research councils worker, who spoke out on condition of anonymity, said: “If you take a communications professional, where else do you move them where they fit?”

The reorganisation process, which is expected to be enforced from June, appears to have been developed largely without the involvement of trade union representatives.

In a Q&A document for staff, seen by the Advertiser, UKRI said: “Trade unions have been kept informed, but it has not been possible to involve them in developing the new structure or the implementation plans. They have been involved in the development of the redeployment process.”

Tony Bell, a national office for the Prospect union, said: “This now seems to be quite an unholy dash to the finish line. If we had been involved in the early stages we could have avoided this.”

A source currently working within the research councils said communications staff had been left disengaged and disgruntled as a result of the proposed changes and the way they had been communicated by communications director Katrina Nevin-Ridley in a heated lecture room meeting at the beginning of April.

The staff member added of the changes: “This is brought to you by the flagship of research and innovation in the UK that champions diversity and fights hard to prevent discrimination amongst its funded researchers. Apparently, this does not work for its employees who are just numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

“Working within this environment is now like working in the worst of the corporate world with no one trusting each other and everyone wondering when the axe will fall on them.”

A spokeswoman for UKRI said the organisation was creating a single communications structure, which would be smaller.

She said: “We are currently strengthening the way we work to take full advantage of the opportunities that working as one organisation creates. This means changes to some functions and roles across the organisation including the creation of a single communications and public engagement structure that will be reduced in size.

“Our goal is to bring together our nine existing teams of communications professionals to share best practice, reduce duplication and to provide the best communications support for staff and for external audiences. We are providing support to all our staff impacted by this process. We understand that organisational change is challenging and we want to thank our exceptional staff for their dedication and hard work during this period.

“There are no planned redundancies as a result of the changes to communications and public engagement. Overall, the changes will result in more roles across UKRI as a whole than we have today to ensure we can deliver the significant increase in government investment in research and innovation over the coming years. Trade unions have been consulted on our plans.”