RCF Chair Heather Hancock joins Defra board

September 5, 2023

Defra has announced the appointment of Heather Hancock LVO DL as the lead non-executive board member of the departmental Board.

HM King Charles III in a blue suit stands in front of a landscape backdrop, with The Royal Countryside Fund logo centered. RCF Chair Heather Hancock is next to HM in a black and white dress.

Non-executive board members are senior figures from outside government, appointed to provide challenge to government departments. As set out in the government’s Code of Practice, non-executive board members should be appointed directly by the Secretary of State and are not civil servants.

Welcoming Heather’s appointment the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Therese Coffey, said: “Heather’s wealth of experience and knowledge make her the ideal candidate for this role, and I am confident she will provide superb insight as we continue our work to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

Permanent Secretary Tamara Finkelstein said: “I look forward to working with Heather as we continue to build a Defra designed to deliver on our ambitious outcomes. We will benefit greatly from her impressive experience across a range of sectors.”

Heather Hancock is the Master of St John’s College in the University of Cambridge and Chair of The Royal Countryside Fund.

Prior to being elected Master of St John’s College, Heather served five years as Chair of the Food Standards Agency (2015-2021), steering the department through the UK’s exit from the EU and working to make life better and safer for people with food allergies and intolerances.

Heather previously worked at professional services firm Deloitte (2003-2014), where she served as a Managing Partner for the UK branch and Managing Director of the global business. In these roles, she provided advice on business strategy and complex programme governance to clients including the international Olympic movement.

In addition, Heather has held senior roles in Whitehall, local and regional government. She was the Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and was a Commissioner for a recent enquiry into the needs of remote rural communities in her home county of North Yorkshire.

In 2014, Heather also delivered an independent review of bias and impartiality into the BBC’s rural affairs coverage. She is currently the chair of the Agricultural Forum and a non-executive director of Rural Solutions Ltd.

The Defra Board provides strategic, corporate leadership to the department and has particular responsibility for monitoring performance and delivery. More details about the Defra Board

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