A south-west council has warned it will have to cut jobs as part of 16% spending cuts in its legal services department.

Cornwall County Council said the £500,000 saving over the next year would mean a reduction in staffing levels and potentially an increased risk of mistakes.

The cuts are part of a widespread package of budget proposals aimed at saving £196m across all departments over the next five years.

In an impact assessment document setting out the proposed cuts, the council said it will restructure its legal services department – although it does not state how many jobs will go.

The consequence of the proposal, the document said, will be a reduction in the ‘capacity and resilience’ of the service.

‘This may result in potential costs to client services from the need to outsource work,’ it added.

‘There will also be reduced resources to respond to major corporate issues. There will be an increased risk of mistakes. It is likely to result in a loss of external income.’

Conversely, the document said, the cuts mean an opportunity for ‘enhancing staff empowerment and rationalising managerial arrangements’.

Across the entire legal, democratic and electoral services department, the council aims to save a further £1.64m by 2019 – with a 15% cut in staff numbers expected to enable the saving.

Legal services, the document stated, would have to look at removing a ‘whole team of fee-earners’ which could lead to a ‘cost shunt’ to other directives.

‘It is not possible to take a further 15% out of staffing costs while retaining legal support to all council functions and service areas,’ it added.

The council will hold 20 meetings across the county to discuss the proposals, with a consultation ending on 29 October.

‘We recognise that many people will be concerned at the impact of some of these proposals but the stark truth is we cannot protect services and save £196m by continuing in the same way,’ said Alex Folkes, cabinet member for finance and resources. ‘We have to become more efficient and change the way we run the council.’

Cornwall is one of the first authorities to set out in detail its plans for budget cuts as they seek to make huge savings.

The Local Government Association estimates councils face a £5.8bn funding gap to the end of 2015/16, forcing cuts equivalent to 12.5%.

The shortfall is caused by a combination of reduced government funding and growing demand on services.