Leadership Team

Emma Handley


I have over 20 years experience within the Citizens Advice service, with a background in commercial business and marketing. I am passionate about equality, social justice and people having access to quality advice and information.

I have worked for Plymouth for over 7 years, previously having worked at Teignbridge and South Hams Citizens Advice. I am passionate about people and wish to create an organisation that is as inclusive as it can be which values the richness of our diverse community in Plymouth: Citizens Advice provides the purpose to do this. My role entails driving the strategy and development of the organisation and compliance in terms of meeting our membership requirements as a Citizens Advice service.

I am married with a daughter and enjoy spending time with my family, being outdoors and when I can concentrate I have been known to knit: knocking up a jumper or two!

Emma Symonds

Director of Operations

I have been working for Citizens Advice Plymouth for the past 7 years and started my career as an Advice projects Coordinator, managing the day to day operations. As Director of Operations I am responsible for overseeing the performance of local and national services at Citizens Advice Plymouth.
I am a passionate leader who specialises in leading a team of head of departments to drive a large scale operation in supporting staff and volunteers to ensure our client journey and service delivery are accessible for all, whilst ensuring we meet and maintain our stakeholder requirements at the highest quality standard.
I joined Citizens Advice Plymouth in July 2015 as I wanted to contribute to the local community, help people in need and also continue promoting social justice.

Prior to joining Citizens Advice Plymouth, I trained as a Secondary Physical Education Teacher where I went on to teach for several years. After a change in career, I moved into the leisure industry where I undertook a management programme with Gala Bingo for 4 years before finally settling into Citizens Advice Plymouth in 2015. In the past I have taken on several volunteer roles in my spare time including a school governor in a local secondary school and a Duke of Edinburgh Volunteer in a local grammar school.

I am married with a young son and enjoys the outdoors, spending time with my family and going to see live music.

Jon Abrahams

Director of Business Support

I joined Citizens Advice Plymouth in 2015 as a volunteer as I wanted to work in the charity sector supporting the local community. During the last few years I have undertaken different roles within the organisation including Project Manager, Trustee and from April 2020 Director of Business Operations.
As Director of Business Operations I have responsibility for all IT and technology platforms, Finance, including budgets as well as general office management. I am fully committed to using my extensive business skills in supporting Citizens Advice Plymouth delivering a great service to our clients.
Prior to joining Citizens Advice Plymouth I worked for Royal Mail for 39 years, working the last 10 years as Head of Customer Experience for Royal Mail’s UK Contact Centres. This involved managing four large contact centres and six smaller customer service centres with 1300 staff. I also had a 2 year spell between 2017 – 19 working as a consultant for DVSA.
I am married with two children and in my free time I enjoy cycling, kayaking and scuba diving.

Michelle Coppola-Cookson

Director of HR

I joined Citizens Advice Plymouth in 2008 as a volunteer, providing generalist adviser to people in the local community. I have undertaken different roles within the organisation including Adviser, HR and Finance Officer and from April 2018 Director of Human Resources.

As Director of HR, I provide independent employment advice to the organisation including the senior leadership team. I am responsible for overseeing onboarding, workforce development, people management, salary benchmarking and compliance management on policies and procedures to ensure all staff have the right support and development to provide a valuable service to our clients. 

I lead on health and wellbeing strategy and accountable for health and safety across the organisation.

Prior to joining Citizens Advice Plymouth I worked as a retail manager for 12 years, alongside training as a volunteer counsellor with young people and specialising in bereavement and complex grief in adults.

I enjoy being near the sea and woodland walks with my partner and very energetic Springer Spaniel!

Andy Gunter-Smith

Director of Development

I have worked in Senior Leadership roles across the employability, guidance and skills sectors for 20+ years, prior to which I was self-employed. My personal focus is working for an organisation that makes a positive difference to people’s lives. I am committed to developing people centred services and support which proactively focus on the issues which really matter to the customer.

I have, in my spare time, been a trustee and non-executive Director to a number of charities, which have afforded me insight and understanding on a range of issues. However I continue to learn and adapt my thinking and understanding. I am also interested in, and openly support the development and understanding of mental health issues and raising greater awareness.

As the Director of Development it gives me personal and professional pride to be working alongside such a dedicated Leadership Team and organisation that is constantly evolving and improving the lives of so many.

Outside of work I enjoy a good book, watch too much T.V and love walking for the fresh air and ‘me time’.