Ursula took up the appointment of Second Permanent Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence in October 2008.
Prior to joining the MOD, Ursula was Deputy Permanent Secretary and Director General Corporate Performance at the Ministry of Justice from April to September 2008, having previously led the review to create the structure for the new Ministry of Justice. Her remit covered leadership of all of the corporate functions in MoJ, including finance, HR, IT, strategy and planning, communications and research and analysis. Ursula was chosen to lead the review when she was Chief Executive of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, a role she took on in 2006. OCJR is the cross-departmental team that supports the three criminal justice departments and all criminal justice agencies in working together to provide an improved service to the public.
Prior to OCJR, Ursula was the DG, Living Land and Seas at Defra from 2004-2006. Her responsibilities included board-level leadership of strategy for rural disadvantage, protection of wildlife and the countryside and marine and fisheries business. 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. She also led a programme to reform the delivery of policy in Defra.
Ursula had spent most of her career in what is now the Department for Work and Pensions, latterly leading the strategy on welfare to work and benefit fraud. In that role she was responsible for policies designed to reduce disadvantage and promote opportunity for millions of people of working age and their children, and for delivering PSA targets on reducing unemployment and increasing employment, particularly for vulnerable groups and for sick and disabled people; reducing child poverty within a generation and reducing fraud and error in benefit payments. Ursula also led on the development of universal banking; and strategic support to strategies on health and safety at work.
Ursula joined the DHSS in 1975 after two years with the Inner London Education Authority. After a variety of health-related jobs, 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 Information Technology Services Agency, responsible for a range of IT projects and contracts. From there she became Director of Change Management at the Benefits Agency, leading the Agency's Change Programme and heading a directorate of over 1,000 staff. In 1997 she returned to policy, with responsibility for benefits for long term sick and disabled people. Ursula became a DG in 1999 when she assumed strategic leadership for the Department’s major change programme.
Ursula was born in 1952 and is married. She has a degree in English and American Literature from the University of Kent at Canterbury.