GRIEVING families in County Durham pay less than almost anywhere else in the country to have their loved ones cremated.

The service provided at the county’s two council-run crematoria are some of the cheapest in the UK and the lowest in the North East, according to the most recent figures.

Bills at the county’s Durham City Crematorium start at £670, although discounted options are available for ‘off-peak service times’.

The latest data, compiled in a joint investigation by the BBC and the Cremation Society, a charity, paints a stark picture of the costs of cremation at council-run facilities in the UK.

This found the cheapest offering was Belfast, with the cost for cremation starting at £364, and the most expensive is in Milton Keynes, where families can expect to pay a basic fee of £960.

Private sector crematoria are likely to charge the biggest bills however, with top prices in some parts of the country reaching more than £1,000, according to the Cremation Society.

The private Wear Valley Crematorium, in Bishop Auckland, has prices starting at £499 for an unattended direct cremation, although a full adult cremation costs £884, according to its website.

Ian Hoult, neighbourhood protection manager at Durham County Council, said: “We work hard with our partners to ensure our crematoriums meet the needs of the people of County Durham.

“Since 2009, more than £5.5 million has been invested at our sites in Durham and Mountsett in Dipton, near Consett. This includes major improvements and extensions to the buildings, grounds and car parking facilities.

“We are aware of the additional strain funeral poverty can cause families during an already difficult time. We also respond to feedback we receive from our customers. This is why we introduced direct cremations, to provide a simpler and even more affordable option.”

The Cremation Society’s figures claim Darlington, Newcastle and Sunderland are some of the most expensive places to be cremated, with venues expected to charge more than £800.