NORTHUMBERLAND College would have been insolvent and unable to pay staff wages if a merger to rescue the institution had not taken place.

The college’s new principal Nigel Harrett, who took over the helm last March just after the college merged with its counterpart in Sunderland, made the claims to Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services committee last week.

Mr Harrett said the many challenges the college was and, in many cases still is facing, were financial vulnerability, an historic lack of investment in estates, the curriculum offer, the quality of the education and the college’s reputation and partnerships.

He said: “Had we not merged, Northumberland College would have needed to go down the insolvency route because we would not have been able to pay staff wages in March last year.”

Since the merger, the college has agreed significant investments in its facilities at its Kirkley Hall and Ashington campuses.

The vision was to improve facilities and the curriculum, despite having to cut 50 jobs in the summer.

Mr Harrett continued to say the overall vision of the colleage was for an ‘outstanding quality, outstanding curriculum’, and he stated: “There’s still a way to go, but I think we are making huge strides.”

After Northumberland county councillor for Prudhoe South, Coun. Gordon Stewart, expressed his concerns and asked how the council could prevent the college getting in such a bad way in future, Mr Harrett explained there was a new governance structure in place, including new governors for Northumberland College, and members had taken extensive training and were hand-picked to ensure there was the right skill mix.