Audrey Branch was appointed as Chair of the Tax on Real Property (TRP) Appeals Panel in September 2021.
Audrey has been a dedicated tribunal member for four years, as a member of the Social Insurance Tribunals Panel and the TRP Appeals Panel and later adding membership of the Complaints Panel of the Administrative Review Board.
She is a regulatory risk consultant and a non-practising barrister, with significant experience in the finance sector. Audrey’s full CV.
We caught up with Audrey to find out why she is so involved with Guernsey’s tribunal system and what making decisions on behalf of the island means to her.
Audrey, what attracted you to public office in the first place?
The advert for the Social Insurance Appeals Tribunal piqued my interest because I have a caring role myself and I have supported my nephew with his Income Support claim. Helping him highlighted to me that people can’t always communicate their story effectively and may be disadvantaged.
Most social insurance cases are about benefits and are very personal. When someone brings an appeal, they don’t do so lightly. It takes a lot of effort and deserves respect. We all need to be sure that the right decisions are being made. I felt that that best way for me to gain that assurance was to participate in the Tribunal, which provides a right of appeal against a decision, without the formality of a court. Making an appeal can be traumatic so a tribunal needs people who will spend time reading the tribunal papers carefully and listen to both the Administrator of Social Security and the person bringing the appeal.
It’s all about people, people whose lives are reliant on our benefits system. Not all outcomes are what the person appealing would want, but they know that they have had a fair hearing. The Tribunal can make suggestions on policy changes – making information clearer on the website, for example.
What skills do you need?
You need the ability to listen and ask questions in a non-judgemental way, to be open to other points of view and aware of your own personal biases. And be aware that the people making representations may also have biases. The Tribunal is made up of a Chair and two Panel members, so you need to participate in a team.
How much time does it take?
You have to properly digest the papers before the tribunal and the hearing process usually takes a morning. If you are the Chair, you might have some post-event meetings. I sit on one or two social insurance tribunal per year, other tribunals such as Planning or Employment and Discrimination can be more active.
What training did you get?
There was a two day tribunal skills training course for new panel members when I joined the Social Security and TRP Panels. The training included how tribunals work, how to behave as a tribunal member and how to go about making a decision. You do a tribunal role play too, which gives you confidence, showing you what a tribunal will be like; and the role of the panel and the chair.
I joined the Complaints Panel when it was advertised in 2019. I already had tribunal skills and I knew what to expect. There was a course for this too. Then, after sitting on a number of tribunals, I felt ready to take on the role as Chair of the TRP.
What has changed now you are a panel chair?
The three members of a tribunal are a team working together to resolve the issue. We bring our different knowledge and experience of life to the table. Now that I am Chair of the TRP Panel I lead and control the meeting so that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. The applicant is often unrepresented so I have to give them space to present their argument. Plus give the panel the opportunity to ask questions and read the room if for example, the applicant is tired. And listen, listen, listen.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to be on a tribunal panel?
If you are even thinking about a tribunal role, if you are wondering ‘what would it be like?’, you are probably the right person. If you know anyone who is on a tribunal, have a chat with them. There are some open meetings the public can attend.
What does being on a tribunal bring to your life?
I wanted to take on a role in public office because it gives me intellectual challenge. I was doing so much caring that I couldn’t do a full-time job. It’s definitely something that you could fit in around children or other caring roles. It keeps you up on current affairs and alert to changes. I read the Press with more meaning now. I’ll look at a Billet. Being on a tribunal means being part of your community, knowing what’s going on around you, being in touch.
Audrey Branch is a regulatory risk consultant. She is also a member of the Social Insurance Appeal Tribunals and the Tax on Real Property Appeal Panel and a member of the independent Complaints Panel under the Administrative Decisions (Review) (Guernsey) Law, 1986 and an independent Review Board member.
Audrey has significant experience in the finance sector – particularly in regulation. From 1994-2015 she was employed by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission in various roles, including Deputy Director of Banking and Deputy Director of Fiduciary Policy and Supervision.
She also has finance industry experience having worked for Barclays, HSBC, Coutts Guernsey Ltd, and CIBC (CI) Ltd. Her professional memberships include Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, Associate Membership of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. She is an English Barrister (non-practising) and is a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple.