CHESTER’S newest children’s centre has been opened by children’s minister Beverley Hughes.

She dropped in to unveil a plaque at the centre on the University of Chester campus at Kingsway.

The minister, whose parliamentary private secretary is city MP Christine Russell, met staff, parents and children at the centre and enjoyed a guided tour of the facilities.

She helped local children release dozens of brightly coloured balloons and a range of fun family activities including face painting, balloon modelling and a magician followed.

The centre offers a variety of services to families in the Newton, Hoole and Mickle Trafford areas including health and social care, education, Job Centre Plus and family information.

Activities on offer include baby massage, stay and play, childminder network drop-in, breastfeeding support, family craft sessions and general advice and guidance.

The centre is developing a programme taking in family finances, family learning, antenatal classes, support for mothers with postnatal depression and a Saturday dads’ group.

It works closely with the university and provides a range of early years placements for undergraduate students.

Mrs Russell, who visited the centre last year, has expressed her delight at the growing network of children’s centres across Chester compared with the lack of facilities when she first arrived in the city.

Ms Hughes, who is also the Government minister for the North West, has said that pulling together will help Cheshire ride out the economic downturn.

She says everything is being done to help families and businesses, protect jobs and homes, support companies and stimulate the economy.

Measures set out in the pre-budget report and legislation in the Queen’s Speech will help the region emerge stronger, she believes.

Ms Hughes, who was brought up in Ellesmere Port, said: “As Minister for the North West it’s my job to do everything in my power to assist our region.

“My message to individuals, families and businesses in Cheshire in 2009 is positive in that everything possible is being done both nationally and regionally to help individuals, families and businesses.”