As a young reporter on weekly newspapers in the shire districts, I gained a view that parish councils were groups of well-meaning villagers who dealt with the position of bus stops, duck pond management and organising the annual fete.

Budgets, if any, would frequently involve sums of about £20 being spent to fix a broken bench or a small grant to help a scout group or am-dram society. Few of them had members aligned to a political party and often seats would go uncontested.

In the 1990s cult-comedy show Absolutely, there was the Stoneybridge Parish Council which would frequently get ideas above their station and make hilariously bad promotional videos.

Their Olympic bid film was a masterpiece – “we don’t have a velodrome yet, but Maigret has a bicycle so you can’t fault us for spirit!”

There was a grain of truth in this comic depiction.

But while true for many rural villages, there is very little relationship between the fictional Stoneybridge and the new Sutton Coldfield Parish Council, which is, for the first time, up for election next week.

READ: Historic day for Sutton Coldfield as UK's largest town council is launched

The Sutton Coldfield version will hopefully be swiftly renamed a town council because the word ‘parish’ does give rise to these stereotypes.

Covering a population of about 90,000, it is the largest local authority of its kind in the UK and will have an annual budget of up to £2 million to help it provide a range of services which were, until recently, overseen by Birmingham City Council.

It is also adding an average £50 per household to the annual council tax (set up in a postal referendum, does this challenge the idea that, on the whole, modern voters will never support tax rises?).

Because of this, there is likely to be a heavy partisan involvement – the electorally dominant Conservatives have put up a full slate of 24 candidates for the council, while Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens are also fielding candidates.

There will also be a challenged from a newly-formed group, the Independents For Sutton Coldfield – who have brushed aside the logical inconsistency of having a group of independents to deliver a joint-platform of sorting out the crumbling town hall, improving Sutton Park and doing lots of stuff with the community.

May 5 marks a historic day for the town and perhaps a step-change in local government across the city of Birmingham and beyond because, if seen to be successful, it could be emulated elsewhere.

Unlike other parishes, the whole thing is getting a bit heated – with the independents moaning that the Tories are behaving like playground bullies, using their political machine to crush the plucky little upstarts.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have pointed out that some of the “so-called independents” have party affiliations as former UKIP or Labour activists and those parties are using the group as a sneaky way of breaking the Tory political stranglehold.

It has all got rather aggressive and the voters of Sutton Coldfield will have to decide where their sympathies lie.

But it just goes to show that this election is about far more than hanging baskets in the high street and benches in the park.

READ: Sutton Coldfield 'could rival Solihull as premier shopping destination'

Think of the children

Nonsuch Primary School
Nonsuch Primary School

Occasionally, especially when we are approaching the May elections, the competitive urge rises and tempers fray among our political elite.

This year's angry moment surrounds a heated exchange over the dreadful state of Nonsuch Primary School, in Woodgate Valley, where children have been excluded at an alarming rate and a leaked report has revealed the school is in a downward spiral of failure and need of drastic intervention.

The row involves two councillors with reputations for never mincing their words – the Conservative former housing chief John Lines and the outspoken Labour backbencher Barry Bowles.

Mr Lines is the local councillor for the area and has been making a furious noise on behalf of the worried parents, the details of which have been chronicled by my colleague Mike Lockley in a series of articles which has brought the issue to a wider audience.

Meanwhile, Mr Bowles is a member of the education scrutiny committee and is, from the Labour side, the fiercest critic of the city’s poor treatment of children with special needs.

But, in their bitter exchange, the former has accused the latter of caring little for disabled children and the latter has hit back describing the former as nasty and vile.

Also in the crossfire is the Labour cabinet member for education.

Now, apologies and retractions are being demanded on all sides as others attempt to calm matters and focus on what is important – the failure at this school, how long it was covered up or unrecognised by those in authority and efforts to ensure that it is not happening elsewhere.

The school has recently moved from local authority control to academy status – so, with the national policy of wholesale school academisation one of the political issues of the moment, it is in danger of becoming a political football.

How much was the local authority to blame and how much the academy management?

This is further amplified against the backdrop of local elections.

What is clear is there are widespread concerns about education in the city and particularly for children with special needs and there seems to be a desire among all involved to sort this out.

So, perhaps it is time to drop the partisan mud-slinging and insults and get around the table to remedy the problems.

READ: Disabled children failed by council's 'dismal' performance