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Google reveals $1bn UK data centre it says will create jobs and ‘boost growth of AI’ | Business News

Google has started construction on a new $1bn (£789m) data centre in the UK, it has been revealed.

The announcement was made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been meeting company bosses as part of a bid to “champion British excellence in tech”.

The new facility is to be located on a 33-acre site at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire, purchased by Google in October 2020.

The Alphabet-owned company said the centre would boost the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and “help ensure reliable digital services to Google Cloud customers and Google users in the UK”.

It also revealed that heat generated from the facility would be saved to benefit homes and other businesses in the local community.

Google employs 7,000 people in the UK and said the data centre would add to that figure, initially due to the construction process.

Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer, said: “The Waltham Cross data centre represents our latest investment in the UK and the wider digital economy at large.

“This investment builds upon our Saint Giles and Kings Cross office developments, our multi-year research collaboration agreement with the University of Cambridge, and the Grace Hopper subsea cable that connects the UK with the United States and Spain.

“This new data centre will help meet growing demand for our AI and cloud services and bring crucial compute capacity to businesses across the UK while creating construction and technical jobs for the local community.

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What did you Google in 2023?

“Together with the UK government, we are working to make AI more helpful and accessible for people and organisations across the country.”

Mr Hunt said of the investment: “From business conducted online to advancements in healthcare, every growing economy relies on data centres.

“Our country is no different and this major $1bn investment from Google is a huge vote of confidence in Britain as the largest tech economy in Europe, bringing with it good jobs and the infrastructure we need to support the industries of the future.”

The announcement was made just a day after Google boss Sundar Pichai told employees in an internal memo to expect more job cuts during 2024.

A year ago, plans for 12,000 global job losses were revealed, amounting to 6% of its workforce.

According to The Verge, which first reported on the communication, the company’s 182,000 staff were told the lay-offs would not be as severe.

The new data centre builds on other recent tech wins for the UK.

Microsoft and Google Logo
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Microsoft and Google are the investment leaders in the AI sphere

Microsoft confirmed plans for a £2.5bn data centre in late November after overcoming UK regulatory hurdles in its £55bn takeover of Activision Blizzard.

Commenting on the latest deal, Ben Barringer, technology analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said there were signs the government’s message that the UK was open for business, particularly in the AI sphere, was getting through.

But he added: “Relations between the government and big tech have been rocky in recent years with the protracted approval of Microsoft’s merger with Activision and Meta downsizing its UK footprint souring relations.

“Looking at the bigger picture for Google, this investment is somewhat a drop in the ocean and simply represents prudent business.

“The cost of this data centre is around a thirtieth of their annual capital expenditure and with approximately 30 data centres already constructed globally, it isn’t exactly going to move the needle for them by adding another.

“Furthermore, it is unlikely that post-construction many jobs will be created. Data centres do not require scores of employees to run them, and given Google is a very lean business, it will be looking to make its operation as efficient as possible.”

Boris Johnson vows to create ‘Newtopia’ for amphibians threatening his swimming pool plans | Politics News

Boris Johnson has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to protect newts that have threatened his plans to build an outdoor swimming pool at his Oxfordshire country manor.

The former prime minister promised to build a “Newtopia”, consisting of “newt motels”, for the amphibians who have taken residence at the Grade II-listed Brightwell Manor he shares with his wife Carrie and their three young children.

Mr Johnson – who ironically once blamed “newt counting” for holding up “the productivity and the prosperity of this country” – applied to install the 11-metre by four-metre outdoor feature at his manor in June.

But the process may be delayed after the local countryside officer warned of the risk to great crested newts – which thrive in the village and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In his latest Daily Mail column, Mr Johnson wrote: “If it turns out that our garden is so honoured and so fortunate as to be the home of some newts – great crested, ­palmate, whatever – I want you to know that I will do whatever it takes to protect them.

“If we have to build little newt motels to house them in their trips past the swimming pool, then we will. If we have to create whole newt-friendly bunds to stop them falling in, we will.

“We will excavate new ponds in which they can breed. We will make a Newtopia!”

Former  Prime Minister Boris Johnson runs near his home in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Oxfordshire

Johnson’s proposed pool in ‘highest risk’ area

The South and Vale countryside officer last month filed a holding objection to Mr Johnson’s planned pool, arguing that the newts could be “impacted by the proposed development”.

In his report, which stated that planning permission should not “currently” be granted, local government ecologist Edward Church wrote: “There are known populations of great crested newts… in the east of the village.

“Mapping shows that there is a pond onsite and a moat immediately adjacent to the southern boundary, both well within 250 metres of the position of the proposed pool.

“The proposed development falls within the red zone of highest risk to GCN [great crested newts].”

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Mr Johnson said that according to one of the ­ecology reports he has received – which he described as “amazingly expensive but worth every penny” – “there are ­certainly bodies of water nearby that could be hospitable to newts”.

“There is a chance that these creatures could be interrupted in their peregrinations, when they leave their watery lairs, by an unexpected new hole in the lawn,” he said.

“I am told that something that could be the spoor of the newt has been found, but we await DNA testing from the lab – and so, inevitably, I am warned that there may be delays, and there may be costs.”

The Wildlife Trust says the great crested newt, which is protected under UK and European wildlife law, is the biggest of the UK’s newt species, measuring up to 17cm.

The so-called “warty newt” is almost black with spotted flanks and an orange belly, with the charity comparing it to a mini-dinosaur.

Newt numbers are in decline, with habitat loss cited as their biggest threat.

‘Take back control’ is an easy slogan to create but fiendishly hard to implement – and Sunak knows it | Beth Rigby | Politics News

Back in 2016, in the run-up to the EU referendum and as Leave campaigners promised to “take back control” of our borders, chief Brexit cheerleader Nigel Farage promised the British people that leaving the European Union would allow the UK to cut net migration to below 50,000.

He wasn’t the only one to promise to drive migration down. David Cameron and Theresa May promised to cut net migration to the “tens-of-thousands” while Boris Johnson promised in 2019 to reduce the net migration from the-then 226,000 a year.

Instead, seven years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, net migration has hit a record high of 606,000 in the year to December 2022, while illegal migration has quadrupled from just over 13,000 in 2018 to more than 52,000 last year.

Politics live: Record net migration Q&A

Out of control might be a better three-word slogan for the current state of affairs that puts huge pressure on the Conservative government that now owns this mess.

Because it’s easy to make the promise but fiendishly hard to keep it.

As migration numbers published today show, it’s difficult for a government in desperate need of economic growth to choke off the supply of Labour without hurting the economy, with work visas accounting for a quarter of all visas granted in net migration figures.

Opposition figures have easy answers: Mr Farage told me he was “hand on heart” not being dishonest about the promises he made in the 2016 Brexit referendum, including cutting net migration to under 50,000, as he told me the Tory government should accept worker shortages to cut immigration, knowing he’d never have to implement a policy of economic self-harm as the government looks to stave off recession and bring down inflation.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told me she would re-train British workers to fill jobs currently being done by foreign workers as she spoke of “unusually high levels” of legal migration and linked it to the “chaos” in the Home Office, lambasting the Tories for the “continual massive gap between the rhetoric and reality”.

But, again, when I asked her to commit to reducing work visas to below 300,000 over the course of a five-year Labour government, should Sir Keir Starmer win the next general election, Ms Cooper declined.

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‘I was never dishonest on Brexit’

You only have to look what her predecessor and Labour party chair Annelise Dodds said on the matter to understand why: “Potentially, in some areas, where there’s a short-term need for skills, you could see in the short-term, actually, people who are coming in, increasing in number.”

What is clear is that the Conservatives – the party of Brexit and of successive promises to drive down net migration – is under huge pressure to tackle this issue, from within its own ranks and from many of its voters who feel let down.

And that pressure falls on the shoulders of Rishi Sunak, who was clearly uncomfortable with repeated questions about migration numbers at the G7 in Hiroshima last week.

So he should be. A politician who tells aides he’ll only promise what he can deliver, and deliver what he promises, he won’t recommit to the 2019 manifesto pledge to drive net migration below 226,000.

Instead he told me in our interview in Japan, he’d reduce migration below the “figures he had inherited” – so around the 500,000 mark, although he refused repeatedly to actually utter that figure in our interview.

Beth Rigby and Nigel Farage
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Beth Rigby and Nigel Farage

At face value, he may well be able to drive down the 606,000 to that level ahead of the next general election, given that 114,000 of those migrants in 2022 were Ukraine refugees, with a further 68,000 visas granted to dependants of those in the UK to study – an area where the government announced it was going to clamp down this week.

But is driving legal migration below half a million – still double your manifesto commitment of 2019 – really something to crow about? Mr Sunak clearly knows it’s not and has instead made stopping illegal small boat crossings his priority.

That too comes with huge risk, and the data out on Thursday shows it.

Asylum claims are up 25,000 to 75,000 on last year – the highest in two decades. The backlog of claims is 172,000 and when it comes to small boat crossings, only 504 of the over 40,000 claims have received a decision.

Read More:
Anger and frustration’ from Tory MPs after calendar year migration record broken

Housing tens of thousands of asylum seekers while they await decisions; co-operating with France and EU neighbours to help police the coastline and break up the smuggling gangs and stop boat crossings; having somewhere to send failed asylum seekers when Brexit means you no longer have return agreements with EU countries; setting up a Rwanda scheme which has yet to be in operation and plagued by legal difficulties.

Those close to the prime minister will tell you privately of the conundrum.

These boat crossings are a political problem that must be tackled, but success is so dependent on external factors that the government can’t control.

One senior figure told me that at the very least the prime minister must go into the next election at least having a narrative about how he tried to tackle small boats, even if part of that story ends up being that he was thwarted by Brussels, Paris, the EU courts, or lefty lawyers.

Stop the boats; take back control; tens of thousands – such easy slogans to create, fiendishly hard policies to actually implement as the current prime minister all too well knows. That’s why he won’t own his predecessors’ promises – and he might well come to regret his own.

Scottish independence will create partnership of equals in the UK, Sturgeon to say | UK News

Scottish independence will create a partnership of equals in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon will say in her speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen today.

Ms Sturgeon will bring the three-day event to a close by telling delegates that the nations of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, will “always be the closest of friends, always be family”.

She is expected to say: “Scottish independence can reset and renew the whole notion of nations working together for the common good.

“England, Scotland, Wales, the island of Ireland. We will always be the closest of friends. We will always be family. But we can achieve a better relationship, a true partnership of equals, when we win Scotland’s independence.”

She is also expected to accuse the UK government of “Westminster’s denial of Scottish democracy”.

She will say: “Full frontal attacks on devolution. A basic lack of respect. It is these which are causing tension and fraying the bonds between us.”

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The First Minister was criticised on Sunday for saying to the BBC: “I detest the Tories and everything they stand for.”

Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon was asked about any announcements she would make in her speech. She said she will have “more to say” on the cost of living crisis “and a host of other things as well”.

She also rejected claims there was a lack of policy commitments during the conference.