Ursula Brennan

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Dame Ursula Brennan
Ursula Brennan DCB.jpg
Born (1952-10-28) 28 October 1952 (age 62)
Nationality British
Occupation Civil servant

Dame Ursula Brennan DCB (born 1952) has been the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the UK Ministry of Justice since July 2012. She is the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

Prior to that she was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) since November 2010. A career civil servant, she joined the MOD (as 2nd PUS) in October 2008, having spent most of her career at what is now the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Brennan was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath (DCB) in the 2013 New Year Honours for public service.[1]


Brennan was born in 1952, in Sevenoaks, Kent. She has a degree in English and American Literature from the University of Kent in Canterbury. After graduation she initially worked at the Inner London Education Authority, but left after two years, saying in a subsequent interview that "It was grim. Huge numbers that joined when I did in 1973 had left within five years. Somebody told me at one point that ‘it's not your job to have ideas – it's your job to do things the way they have always been done’. I was in my early 20s and I thought to myself that I couldn't spend the rest of my career in an organisation where it wasn't my job to think."[2]

National Government Career[edit]

Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS)[edit]

Brennan joined the Department of Health and Social Security in 1975. After a variety of health-related jobs, including that of Private Secretary to the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Henry Yellowlees, she moved on to social security, covering policy on all the main social security benefits and then into operations as a Director of the Department's IT Services Agency, responsible for a range of IT projects and contracts. From there she became Director of Change Management at the Benefits Agency. In 1997 she returned to policy, with responsibility for benefits for long term sick and disabled people. From 1999-2004, she was the Director-General (DG) at the DWP.[citation needed]


From 2004–2006, Brennan was the DG Living Land and Seas at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) where her responsibilities included board-level leadership of strategy for rural disadvantage, and protection of wildlife and the countryside. She led the implementation of a review of rural delivery, merging and creating two new Non-Departmental Public Bodies and restructuring delivery of grants and advice to rural business.[citation needed]

Ministry of Defence (MOD)[edit]

Brennan was appointed 2nd PUS at the MOD in October 2008. In that position she had responsibility for several business areas including acquisition reform, safety and governance and business process. She was subsequently appointed as PUS from October 2010,[3] in which role she was Joint Chief Operating Officer (with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff), ensuring delivery of Defence Board intentions and driving forward major Defence change programmes. Brennan was also responsible for a range of cross-Departmental business including acquisition reform, safety and governance and business process.[citation needed]

Ministry of Justice[edit]

In 2006/2007, Brennan was Chief Executive of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform. Following this work, from April to September 2008, Brennan was DG Corporate Performance in the Ministry of Justice, having led the review to create the structure for what was then a new Ministry which had been extracted from the Home Office. Her remit covered leadership of the corporate functions in MOJ, including finance, HR, IT, strategy and planning, communications and research and analysis.[citation needed]

On 12 June 2012, it was announced by Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service, that Brennan would return to the MOJ as Permanent Secretary and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. She replaced Sir Suma Chakrabarti who has become President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).[4]


  1. ^ Cabinet Office (29 December 2012). "New Year Honours: New Year 2013 Honours List – Higher Awards". Cabinet Office. p. 4. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Ursula Brennan profile, theguardian.com; accessed 16 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Ursula Brennan to be new Permanent Secretary of MOD". mod.uk. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "New Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Justice announced". justice.gov.uk. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.