Belfast burials are UK’s cheapest, but cremation costs ‘cause frustration’
Belfast is the cheapest place to die in the UK - with thrifty Presbyterians paying less than Catholics.
A new report shows the average cost of a funeral is still a hefty £3,036, but that's substantially lower than elsewhere in the UK where prices range from £3,535 in Scotland to £4,779 in the most expensive area, London.
After a fall in funeral costs in 2016, Royal London's latest national funeral cost index has reported an increase in prices.
However, the cost rise of 3%, which means that the average funeral in the UK in 2017 was £3,784 compared to £3,675 the year before, is only marginally ahead of the rate of inflation.
But hidden behind the figures, a Craigavon-based funeral director says there are major issues which need addressed in Northern Ireland when it comes to saying farewell to your loved one.
Ian Milne of Milne Funeral Services said: "You can't argue with the figures, but we never take them too seriously. Each funeral is an individual one. Every last wish is different.
"What we try to do is give every family the funeral they desire. Most people don't worry about the cost. They want to give their loved one as perfect a send off as they can.
"In fact, they'd probably pay more if they had to.
"We've found fewer and fewer people recently who struggle with the cost of a funeral. It may sound strange but we don't run as a business, we run it as a service, tailored to suit the requests we receive, and as such, charge accordingly.
"It's all down to individual taste and it can also come down to religion. A Catholic funeral will usually cost more as the headstone is likely to be more elaborate.
"A Presbyterian funeral will be less as there tends to be less extravagance. It's a simpler affair.
"But even within Northern Ireland people will find quite a difference between the cost of a funeral.
"One major difference, which I struggle to understand and one that causes a lot of frustration, is the difference in the cost of a cremation depending on where you live."
Currently there is only one crematorium here, at Roselawn in Belfast.
Mr Milne added: "Belfast City Council set the price for a cremation and for a normal adult, who lives within the Belfast Council area, the cost is £380.
"If you die, live outside Belfast and want to be cremated, the cost is £626. I'd like to know why do I have to charge so much more just because I live and work 20 miles down the road?
"Anyone who wants to be cremated has no option other than going to Belfast as we have no private crematoriums in Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK.
"What people might find even more interesting, and what actually amazed me, was the difference in the cost of a funeral north and south of the border.
"It costs twice as much in southern Ireland."
Now the average cost of a burial in Belfast stands at £3,128 and a cremation at £2,943, which averages out at £3,036.
The figures released by Royal London relate only to the actual cost of the burial itself and do not account for additional costs.
Roughly £1,900 is spent on memorials, death notices, flowers, funeral cars, hiring a wake venue and catering, as well as another almost £3,000 in legal fees.
It takes the overall cost to around £9,000.