CHILDCARE bills in the North-East have reached record levels, according to a survey published today.

Although the region has below-average fees, the cost of a nursery place for a child under two is now £112 - a rise of 8.7 per cent from last year.

Nationally, the figure is £128 a week, or more than £6,650 a year, up 6.7 per cent.

The survey, carried out by childcare charity Daycare Trust, showed the typical cost of a full-time place with a childminder for a child under two was £108 a week, while an after-school club was £38 for 15 hours a week - £4 more than the national average.

Stephen Burke, director of the Daycare Trust, said: "British parents face the highest childcare bills in Europe.

''Parents need more financial help towards childcare costs to enable them to work and to give their children a good start in life."

The charity is calling on ministers and employers to provide more help for parents towards the cost of childcare.

Increasing demand and a lack of spaces is also pushing the cost up.

Durham County Council says it needs to create 600 places in the next two years.

The Daycare Trust says working families on lower incomes who receive help from the childcare tax credit scheme still have to find at least 30 per cent of the cost of childcare.

Karen Clarke, a single mother from Chester-le-Street, works full-time as a shop assistant while her son Jack goes to nursery.

She said: "To be honest, it is barely worth me going to work, because nearly all the money gets taken up by the cost of nursery.

"Because I am a single mum, I get £35 a week towards the cost but I still have to pay £55 myself and it makes a huge hole in my budget."