Dan Jeffery, Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Social Care, writes:
Unlike many other local authorities across the country, including our Tory neighbour in Hampshire, Southampton has managed to keep all 14 of its Sure Start Children's Centres open. This is a massive achievement considering the level of cuts Southampton Council has faced in the last few years.
We've had to make plenty of difficult decisions, but we believe that getting the best start in life for our youngsters is an investment that will pay dividends later in life and is just too important to cut. I've seen what a difference Sure Start can make; when you're first a parent it can be very isolating, and if you have other problems too it can be really tough.
Not everything Sure Start does is free, but many of the services are free and easy to use, and some of the centres also provide childcare as well as a really useful location to see the local health visitor and get access to other health and advice services. They are great for children but also a good source of support to parents, for example to gain new skills and the support to get back to work.
Rightly so, the best centres are in areas which need greater support and are really at the heart of many communities across the city. Out of all the achievements of the last Labour Government, I think this is probably one of the most successful and valued, one we will continue to support as a priority.