CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown faced one of the most unpredictable audiences of his career.
But it was all smiles yesterday when he came face to face with a group of nursery children on a visit to a new family centre in Rastrick.
Youngsters aged three and four gathered around the minister for a sing-song to mark the opening of Field Lane Children's Centre, paid for by a Government scheme, Sure Start Elland.
Mr Brown smiled broadly when he was handed an abacus as a gift for his young son.
And the whole audience burst into laughter during a chat between Mr Brown and the children on the subject of birthdays.
The minister, who recently outlined Government plans to pay for 3,500 children's centres across the country by 2010, toured the £700,000 building, which has education, health, employment and family support facilities under one roof.
He also got the chance to meet foundation stage one pupils from Field Lane Primary School who are to use part of the new premises, which are attached to the school.
Unveiling a plaque, Mr Brown congratulated those involved in creating the centre, including Sure Start Elland, Calderdale Primary Care Trust, Calderdale Council and the primary school.
He said: "It has been a joy to be here this morning, to meet the teachers, parents, pupils and all the staff who do a lot of hard work here.
"This is pioneering and people from all parts of the country will come here to look at what has been done.
"It means providing a wider range of services than was ever possible before.
"Parents can meet other parents here, making for a greater community spirit in this area.
"The centre deserves so much credit and praise. The design has been magnificent. It does show when we work together anything is possible.
"This will be a landmark for this area, changing the way things are done."
Mark Nicholas, Sure Start Elland's programme director, said: "For people receiving public services it can be a nightmare.
"You have to go to one office for one thing and go to another for something else.
"What we can do here is sort everything out under one roof.
"Most of the day-to-day problems families have we can deal with here.
"It is somewhere that people can come to feel nurtured."
Services offered at the centre will include parenting groups, breast feeding support, JobCentre Plus sessions, Citizens' Advice Bureau and childcare sessions.