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Trustee Board & Management Team

Riz Awan
Chief Officer

Riz has been at Citizens Advice Southend since 2014 and was an Advice Service Manager before she became a Chief Officer in November 2019. 

Prior to this Riz worked as a Legal Adviser to a number of firms in the City covering Civil Litigation, Insolvency and working with the Public Sector. 

Riz represents us at various consortiums in the Southend area and is involved with a number of local groups and partnerships.

Riz enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends and is a Director on the Multi Academy Trust at local Schools in her area.

Paula Whittle
B.Ed MA MBA FRSA

Paula joined the Trustee Board as a Volunteers Representative in 2017.  Paula retired as a College Chief Executive at the end of 2013 to become an Education and Leadership Consultant. She has broad experience of governance in a range of contexts and acted as consultant to a national group. She joined Citizens Advice in 2015 as a volunteer for social research and campaigns. In addition to her work at CA she is Chair of Governors at a Primary school, Governor of a London College and Vice Chair of an education charity. She was also Chair of a large national charity until 2017.  She has wide experience of fund raising and donor management in both national and local contexts.

Phil Stepney

Phil has been a member of the Trustee Board since January 2007 and Chair since November 2010.

He is also a director of Citizens Advice Essex and in addition to his involvement in Citizens Advice is Treasurer of Shields and an active Rotarian.

Before joining the Trustee Board, Phil worked for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and held the posts of Assistant Borough Treasurer and Director of Social Care.

His hobbies include walking and photography.

Sonia Wood

Sonia has been a Housing and Welfare Benefit caseworker with Citizens Advice Southend since 2001. She has also progressed onto matters dealing with homelessness and illegal evictions with an extensive knowledge in this area of work. 

Before joining Citizens Advice, Sonia worked with the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) and saw it through various changes to DSS and Benefits Agency.

Fiona Colwell

Fiona is a Partner and the Head of Civil Litigation at Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP (located in Westcliff on Sea and Billericay) and has been a member of the Trustee Board since May 2013.

Alongside Citizens Advice Southend, Fiona is also a Governor of a local boys Grammar School and has been involved with fundraising for various charities - both national and local.

Jane Vernon Smith

Jane is a freelance business-to business writer and editor. She has been a member of the trustee board since 2009.

Her other community involvement includes membership of the governing body of Southend Adult Community College; she has also been on the committee of her local residents’ association for more than 10 years.

Julie Cushion

Julie became a member of the Trustee Board in June 2002 and has been Vice Chair since November 2010.

Julie is the Constituency PA for Sir David Amess MP.  Her other community roles are as a Trustee for the charity Aspirations Southend, which helps young people achieve through funding, also a board member for St Christopher School Academy Trust and a school governor at Fairways Primary School.

Graham Robinson

Graham is a Chartered Accountant  and joined the Trustee Board in January 2007. He has been Treasurer since May 2007.

Graham  spent many years as CEO of a  manufacturing Charity, employing a majority of disabled people in three factories producing a range of cosmetic and cleaning products.

At the same time  Graham was  a  Director  of a West End advertising agency.

Currently he is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of a large final salary pension scheme.

Best ever job was as a volunteer in an animal sanctuary for rescued wildlife!

Tony Williams

Tony has been a member of the Trustee Board since May 2006.

Tony worked for Lloyds Bank for over 30 years, moving around the country ( Pinner, Nottingham/Southwell, Hemel Hempstead, Great Missenden, and Southend). On retiring in 1993, he became a school governor at Southend High School for Girls and, for a short period, a member of SAVS board.

In 1995 he became a magistrate and then , in 1997, joined the Essex Police Authority, staying there until the Authority was abolished in 2012.

David Barnes

David joined the Trustee Board in October 2019.

David has lived all his life in Southend.

He is currently employed as a manager for a multi-national insurance company based in the City of London. He has many years’ experience in management, and is well-versed in many aspects of finance and commerce.

In previous roles in the community, David has been a Chair of Governors at two local primary schools.

Miles Richardson
MBE, LLB

Miles is a qualified housing solicitor who joined us in 1996 from local firm, Jervis Jerman.

His post is funded through the contract which we have with the Legal Aid Agency (previously the Legal Services Commission).

Miles was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2006 for services to Legal Aid work, much deserved recognition of his work.

Ben Apenteng

Ben is our Training & Recruitment manager. He joined Citizens Advice Southend in November 2011, after briefly working with Citizens Advice Rochford & Rayleigh, as Advice Session Supervisor.

Ben previously worked with the WorkBank (Opera Group) as Contracts Manager for University of East London (UEL) for a period of six years.

Ben has a passion in career development and in 2007, with a grant from the British Council, went to train Career Consultants at the University of Ghana.

Andrew St John

Andrew is a Volunteers Representative on the Board of Trustees since November 2016. Andrew has been a Volunteer Adviser at Citizens Advice Southend since 2013.

Prior to this Andrew worked in Banking for BNP Paribas from 1981 to 2012.

Helen Wakeham

Helen is the Paid Staff Representative on the Board of Trustees since January 2019.

Helen has worked at Citizens Advice Southend since August 2015 as admin support