Britain recorded a bigger-than-expected budget deficit of 21.53 billion pounds ($26.87 billion) in March, official data showed on Tuesday, capping off the fourth-highest borrowing for a financial year since records started in 1946.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to public sector net borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, of 20 billion pounds.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported borrowing of 139.2 billion pounds for the 2022/23 financial year that ended in March, or 5.5% of gross domestic product.

Last month, the Office for Budget Responsibility - whose forecasts are used by the government - said borrowing for 2022/23 as a whole would be 152.4 billion pounds, or 6.1% of economic output, before dropping to 5.1% in 2023/24.

A new assessment of the value of student loans was a big factor behind a cut in estimated borrowing of 14.6 billion pounds over the 11 months to February, the ONS said.

The full-year estimate for 2022/23 borrowing did not represent final data and would be revised in the months ahead.

"These numbers reflect the inevitable consequences of borrowing eye-watering sums to help families and businesses through a pandemic and Putin's energy crisis," finance minister Jeremy Hunt said.

An ONS official said the government's total energy bill subsidies cost 8 billion pounds in March, taking the six-month total cost to 41.2 billion pounds. (0.8012 pounds) (Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar and Andy Bruce Editing by William Schomberg)