British government borrowing in the recently ended 2021/22 financial year was almost 20% higher than forecast by its own budget office last month, according to figures published today.

The data underscored the challenge for finance minister Rishi Sunak.

He is under pressure to give new support to households and businesses hit by surging inflation but he also says he wants to fix the public finances after his Covid-19 borrowing surge.

British public-sector net borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, totalled £151.8 billion in the 2021/22 financial year.

Last month, the Office for Budget Responsibility said it expected borrowing in 2021/22 to be £127.8 billion.

In March alone, borrowing was £18.1 billion, the Office for National Statistics said today, below the average forecast of a deficit of £19.25 billion in a Reuters poll of economists.

An ONS official said the 2021/22 overshoot was largely due to higher public spending on goods and services and investment - both of which were likely to be revised in future.

Receipts were largely in line with the OBR's forecasts.

Borrowing for the 12 months to March was almost £166 billion lower than in the previous financial year when Britain borrowed the most it ever has in peacetime to fund huge support for the economy during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, the most recent figure was still the third-highest on record since records began in 1947, after the first year of the coronavirus pandemic and the 2009/10 financial year, during the global financial crisis.