ST HELENS College received a £1.65m government bailout days before the official merger with Knowsley College.

The college was given the money on December 8 last year and was among a list of 12 institutes across the country who received sums listed in figures published by the Department for Education.

St Helens and Knowsley colleges formally merged on December 12 last year, trading as the SK College Group.

The college has recently informed trade unions that it was seeking to make 85 redundancies by July in a bid to save £2.85m.

Initially, 50 potential redundancies had been highlighted but an increased number has since been proposed, which would include 46 from the academic staff and 30 from business support areas.

Unions have vowed to fight against any compulsory redundancies at the college.

Dr Jette Burford, chief executive of the SK College Group, said the colleges had face "unprecedented" financial pressures over the past 18 months leading to "unavoidable pressure on the cash flow of both colleges".

She said: “The past eighteen months have been unprecedented in the history of both Knowsley Community College and St Helens College, as both organisations prepared for merger.

"Originally planned to be complete by March 2017, the merger was delayed until December 2017 due to external factors outside our control.

"The exceptional costs placed unavoidable pressure on the cash flow position of both colleges. This was resolved with a one-off loan, which we repaid very shortly after."

Dr Burford added: "We now need to deliver the economies of scale that the merger identified.

"Like any other business, we need to adapt and respond to the needs of our customers, and as such we are currently reshaping our curriculum offering an innovative and broad curriculum, that is of the highest quality.

"Our commitment to quality is unrelenting and clearly evident, as recent Department forEducation (DFE) league tables placed us as the best General Further Education (GFE) College on Merseyside for A Level student Progress.

"Our Vocational provision was recognised as the best GFE in Merseyside for applied general and technical level qualifications.

"Our Higher Education provision continues to go from strength to strength, as we are the highest ranking GFE College in the Liverpool City region and Cheshire for overall student satisfaction.

"Our students are always our main priority, and they will not be adversely affected by any internal changes.”