Of course turnout is a big problem for local democracy in the UK. At around 40% (when there is not a general election at the same time) it is significantly lower than national elections and also lower than in other European countries. It doesn't help the legitimacy of local government when less than half of those eligible to vote chose to do so.
But what is the alternative?
Well, voting could be compulsory for all local citizens, fines or even short prison sentences could follow for failure to comply. It's an idea as ancient as the Greeks and such schemes operate today in countries such as Australia. Is it really so difficult to embrace? Citizens have a duty to pay tax, to serve on juries, so why not vote?
There are many ways in which concerns could be dealt with. So, for example, you could add an 'abstain' option to the ballot, give people the option to vote 'none of the above' or even provide a blank space for people to add in their own preference.
One idea I like is to pay people to vote. A surcharge could be placed on the Council Tax to fund a £10 'reward' for every voter. It would (more or less) act like a deposit scheme for Council Tax payers and redistribute a little wealth for those who are not.
One important benefit of compulsory voting is that it would improve the functioning of local politics. Parties would need to revisit their electoral strategies and ensure that their policies appealed to all voters - not just those might be expected to vote voluntarily. Hence politics should be more inclusive and promote a fairer society.
update: another article here but I haven't read it yet...