Public borrowing hit an all-time high of £20.3 billion for a single month in November, official figures showed today.
The latest confirmation of the recession's impact on the public finances will put more pressure on Chancellor Alistair Darling.
The figure is not as bad as the £23 billion feared by economists but still takes net borrowing for the eight months of the financial year so far to £106.4 billion.
The £20.3 billion is more than was borrowed by the UK for the whole of 2002 and on a par with International Monetary Fund estimates for the entire 2009 output of economies such as Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Net borrowing is expected to reach £178 billion for the year as a whole.
The gloomy figures also showed net debt reaching a record £844.5 billion in November - or 60.2% of the UK's annual GDP.
Current tax receipts fell by £1 billion on the same month a year ago while spending jumped by more than £3 billion to £50.3 billion.
Nearly a third of this spending was accounted for by social benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance - the so-called "bill for failure" - which hit £16.2 billion. This is the highest for at least eight years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Other unwanted records thrown up by the figures include a £16.2 billion current deficit - the gap between spending and receipts.
The deficit for the year so far has reached £83.2 billion, although the Chancellor has pledged to halve the deficit within four years and the Government is passing a Fiscal Responsibility Bill to put the commitment on a legal footing.