Chancellor George Osborne was dealt a blow hours ahead of the Budget today as official figures revealed a larger-than-expected surge in public borrowing last month.
The £15.2bn jump in February's net borrowing excluding financial interventions such as bank bailouts was a record for the month and compared with £8.9bn last year. The City had forecast a £7.9bn rise.
Total borrowing for the year to date is £110 billion, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, and with a month of the financial year to go is £17bn away from the full-year target of £127 billion. Last year, public borrowing in March was £17.95bn.
Many economists had predicted the Chancellor would undershoot the full-year target after the Government recorded its highest surplus for four years in January of £7.9 billion.
Mr Osborne is under pressure to stick to his tough austerity measures after agencies Fitch and Moody's both put the UK's AAA credit rating on negative outlook.