The merger of South Thames College with Merton College is one step closer after staff met with the new further education minister this week.

Sion Simon MP put the merger on hold because he was unsure of whether mergers were a beneficial policy to adopt.

But on after talking over his concerns during a visit to the college last week, principal Sue Rimmer said everything was back on track.

She said: “All indications are that it will proceed to timetable. So far it has been very positive.”

Local MPs Sadiq Khan and Martin Linton arrived at the meeting to help persuade the minister.

Mr Khan said: “This merger is important to safeguard the provision both colleges provide for their local communities.

“I was concerned by the hold-up, but am pleased that the minister listened carefully to the reasons behind the merger and the huge advantages a merged college would bring to all local communities.”

South Thames College hopes to merge with Merton College in August 2009, after a series of reports, consultations and government approvals.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is expected to approve the move in the new year.

The merger, which has been planned for a year, aims to allow the colleges to make the best of each other’s strengths and resources.

Management say the move will help provide more apprenticeships and foundation degrees, create more choice and bring in those hardest to reach.

Mr Linton added: “I think South Thames College does a very good job for Wandsworth and a merger with Merton College makes good sense.

“They complement each other and will be able to provide a wider range of courses and achieve even better results as a single organisation.”

South Thames College has a string of sites across the borough and last year accomodated 21,000 students.